Monday, January 21, 2008

Another missed opportunity for the CSU

- The budget of the California State University - with 23 campuses and a dozen or more satellite operations - is in jeopardy, like all of public education, because of the budget problems of the state of California.

No surprise there.

And the CSU top-dog's response? Shut off applications at all campuses and centers early, so there are fewer students who can actually enroll.

Not a bad move on the surface. Every student costs $$. But when you realize that what money the CSU does get from the state is tied quite neatly to the number of students enrolled across all the campuses, well, it's not a very smart strategy.

To save space, I will not dwell on how many times the California State University Trustees have shot themselves in the foot. Even the Internet has its limitations. Instead, I would point out that this 'crisis' could be (or could have been) used a way to help save a CSU campus that's in trouble. (Oh, is that why the dateline on this article is from Humboldt State?)

Humboldt State - a jewel of small university, but geographically challenged in the far north Redwoods - has had a serious enrollment slump for the past few years, giving its administration the chance to go in and whack academic programs to downsize the university. Its adminstration, however, seems to soldier on, well-paid and secure. Most of the eventual cuts will probably smack more of political payback than real economies designed to make for a better Humboldt State education.

But no matter what, the Trustees - and Chancellor Charles Reed - missed a huge opportunity here to boost that enrollment back to better levels - and avoid turning away at least some of the people who will now miss out on getting enrolled at a CSU campus this year.

Charles Reed
Why is Charles Reed smiling?

Instead of shutting off applications at all CSU campuses, the CSU should have left the door open at Humboldt (and perhaps Stanislaus and Dominguez Hills).

The 10,000 students that Charles Reed says the CSU will not have space for this year could potentially solve the enrollment problem at all three campuses. Certainly leaving Humboldt as the one campus taking applications until, say, April 1, would help it from having to terminate entire majors, lay off faculty, and push the school further on a downward spiral.

Of course all 10,000 potential students are not going to flock to Humboldt - but even a thousand would tip the scale and revitalize their numbers.

Because I have been a consistent critic of the CSU administration (with good reason), it's doubtful that anything I say would be taken seriously.

But anyone reading this blog - who thinks this notion could help keep Humboldt State University afloat - should consider contacting Reed and members of the board of trustees, including Robert Achtenberg, who as chair last year led the university in strategic planning effort called "Access to Excellence."

Let's see how serious she - and the rest of the board of trustees - really are.

Roberta Achtenberg
Robera Achtenburg