California State University, Sacramento president Alexander González did not mince words when he spoke about the state of the university.
"We are surviving and that is the most important thing right now. But, we are not going to stop at surviving. We have a lot of different programs and projects we are spearheading so we can stay financially afloat," said González during an interview. following his Aug. 23 remark to approximately 500 guests at the University Union Ballroom.
Despite the university's budget predicament, González said the most important factor are the students.
"We must always remember the difficulties students are facing with the budget cuts, and every dollar that we raise can make a big difference in their lives," said González.
Aside from highlighting the new campus restaurants, projects, facilities, staff, faculty and leaders in student government, nothing took center stage more than the financial crisis plaguing the California State University campuses.
The CSU system faces a trigger cut of nearly $250 million, which can be averted if voters approve Proposition 30 in November. The measure would raise the state sales tax to 7.5 per cent from 7.25 per cent, and create three new, high-income tax brackets for those earning more than $250,000 a year.
The tax increase, which would be in effect for seven years, would generate $9 billion, according to the non-partisan Legislative Analysts Office.
If voters reject the proposition, said González, state funding for the CSU system would be down 39 percent since 2007-08. Sacramento State would suffer more than $11 million in cuts.
Sacramento State is tapping into its reserves to cover a $9 million deficit. The cuts are detrimental to student access, affordability and success in a university atmosphere, said González.
"The continuing budget difficulties have really put us under the microscope, especially in terms of graduation rates and student success," said González, who said many university projects that are designed to offer more opportunities and learning experiences for the students have been put on hold until November.
"We are in an era of declining resources and we are doing our best to ensure those resources do not put access, affordability and quality under assault," said González.
Despite the budget shortfalls, González remains optimistic this school year. He highlighted several college changes that will enhance the overall educational experience of students by providing them with additional opportunities to succeed.
The College of Education, for example, will complete its reorganization by next August; and six college departments will shift to four specialty areas to support new students.
More resources have been allocated for Early Start -- a CSU-mandated program that requires a preparatory class for all first-time freshmen who need remediation and services for students with disabilities will continue to promote retention and graduation through its S-S-S program. Nearly 86 percent of students in the program have graduated within six years of entering the project and the retention rate was more than 88 percent.
The College of Business Administration's accreditation was reaffirmed this year and it currently sits in the top five percent of business schools worldwide.
Still, the threat of Proposition 30's failure will "force the university to consider all options if the measure does not pass," said González.
Those measures will be seen and felt through enrollment reductions, last-minute tuition increases, and cuts to salary and benefit expenses.
Sacramento State -- where Latinos account for nearly 34 percent of its enrollment -- will likely see a decrease in the coming years given budget cuts and tuition hikes.
González, a Mexican-American who grew up with mentors like the late educator Jaime Escalante, knows Latino students are the most vulnerable during budget shortfalls, given the low graduation and drop-out rates that currently exist.
"Univisión launched their 'Es el Momento' campaign and I have seen the good it has done with Latino students and their families. I am working on bringing that campaign to Sacramento State in hopes it will motivate, encourage and inspire students to continue their education despite the recession," said González, who has spent the last 34 years in education on several CSU campuses, including Fresno State.
If all goes as planned, González will bring the program launched by Univisión next spring semester 2013 to continue encouraging and fostering minority enrollment.
Still, the economic state of all CSU campuses will rely on the direction the new chancellor will take.
"We have to see what the future is going to look like in 20 years. If times are difficult now, what can we expect from our future? We can't stop educating -- we have to continue striving to provide everything we can so students succeed on this campus or another," said González.