Imagine if it took six years to complete your undergraduate degree—in large part because you had to work three different jobs to finance your education.
And then, just as you’re ready to graduate, you learn it will take another year before you complete your degree. Why? Because your university is scaling back its course offerings due to budgets cuts, and the classes you need to finish your undergraduate work won’t be available again for at least another year.
Whitney Thompson, a 24-year-old majoring in Gender Studies, was facing this exact situation at California State University, Fresno. Thompson, who eventually wants to teach at the high school level, was forced to switch her major to history to avoid the additional year she says she could not afford. She says many students at CSU’s 23 campuses are running into similar situations.
“Even in the history program that I am in now, the courses that are usually offered are no longer available,” said Thompson. “Some people can’t even get some of the core courses they need for their final research papers to complete the major. They will have to wait.”
California, like so many other states struggling with huge deficits, is trying to stave off the impact of an anemic economy by making major cuts to its education budget—including higher education. The state is facing a $20 billion shortfall.
As a result, CSU has been forced to implement cost-cutting measures—including employee furloughs and layoffs. In fact, a recent study by the California Faculty Association, comparing May 2009 to May 2010, showed that CSU is operating with 10 percent fewer faculty members across all campuses combined. Students are feeling the impact.
“It wouldn’t be so bad if we were paying more and getting the same,” said Thompson. “But we are actually paying more than ever and getting less. Because of the reduction in faculty, my professors have to cut down on the syllabus. We are not getting all we’re suppose to get.”
Public universities and colleges across the nation are implementing similar cost-cutting measures. Many universities are implementing fee hikes and turning some students away because of enrollment caps designed to keep costs down.
States are facing financial crises and without the $23 billion education jobs fund higher education budgets nationwide will continue to suffer deep cuts. The education jobs fund would prevent college faculty from being laid off and reduce cost-cutting measures like course reductions, enrollment caps, and fee hikes—stumbling blocks that prevent many students from completing their degrees.