Cuts and Stitches: What the Budget Statement Means For the CSU System

Sabeen Al-Khasib, Staff Writer

“In partnership with the Legislature, we will continue to prioritize the issues that matter most to Californians while building a strong fiscal foundation for the state’s future,” stated Gov. Newsom in his 2023-2024 budget statement. 

Throughout his letter, Newsom commented on the economic and physical state of California, acknowledging the struggle the Golden State has endured in recent years. 

Increasing seats in classrooms, closing equity gaps, and improving job prospects were among some of the many proposals Gov. Newsom championed in his 2023-2024 budget statement. Notably, Newsom motioned for a 5% increase in California State University and University of California system budgets.

Currently, the state is investing an estimated $24,000 per student according to the “Fact Sheet: Governor’s Budget for 2023-2024” in an attempt to build proper educational infrastructure for Californians, starting with kindergarten and continuing on to higher education. 

Newsom’s address also emphasized improving accessibility to students with disabilities as a key objective. 

“This proposal, despite the uncertainty surrounding the state’s economic circumstances, reinforces the administration’s commitment to the CSU,” stated CSU Chancellor Jolene Koester, asserting that, “[the proposals’] belief in our mission and appreciation of our successes in transforming the lives of Californians.” 

With Newsom’s proposed $41 million dollar CSU budget for the 2023-2024 academic year set, what will this mean for students, faculty, and staff?  

As of the 2023 Spring semester, The California State University, East Bay’s STEM Lab laid off 25 of its workers — a 40% reduction in staff size — and removed a few previously offered subjects. Student, Learning Assistant, and STEM lab worker Kevin Conn expressed his views on the matter, stating, “They don’t value us as they would [value] a ‘non-student’ faculty member.” 

Students and faculty members at the lab felt blindsided by the sudden budget cuts. “[The Deans of the College of Science] promised to be transparent with us on whether or not we got grants to fund sections…. someone found out and told the rest of us, but I was under the impression that it was going to be open communication,” Conn commented. 

Breaking down the mismanagement he saw from his Administration, Conn shared that some Learning Assistants were not paid on time, violating worker laws. In his personal experience, he viewed the STEM lab as a safe space, not just for faculty but for students as well: “LA’s are a soft bridge between students and the professors… there are 40 or so kids in the class and one teacher. Sometimes [there are] teaching styles that don’t work for students, and there are eight different people who can help you with eight different styles, and I think there’s a lot of value in that.” 

Administration suffered through budget cuts as well. In the 2022-2023 May revision, Newsom reduced the CSU budget by $100 million, decreasing it from $311 million to $211 million. The California Faculty Association (CFA) protested for a 1% increase in salary, but the last-minute revision saw the salary increase return to the original 3% as was promised. 

Despite the generous increase in budget for the 2023-2024 academic year, this doesn’t promise a future for the CSU system. CSUEB is one of seven CSU campuses to experience an enrollment decline. In the past two years, the CSU system has collectively lost 27,000 students in total. Since budget increases are directly linked to enrollment, if the low enrollment trend continues, CSU will become unaffordable to students with special needs or those experiencing housing or financial insecurity. 

As the year goes on, the economy will have more of a solid outlook; California is known for its notorious economic swings. While the January proposal is ambitious and provides the state and its school systems a running start, there will be a better sense of the economy and its effect on the CSU and UC systems when May rolls around.