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CPP administrators mind $20M gap in annual budget meeting

By Nicolas Hernandez, Copy Editor and Moustafa Elhadary, Staff Writer

Top Cal Poly Pomona administrators convened the university’s annual budget meeting on Oct. 29 to discuss fiscal considerations and strategies enacted by the administration as CPP faces a $20 million budget gap.

The Campus Conversation on the State of the Budget served to inform the 500-person audience, made up mostly of faculty and staff, of how the university is addressing this budget shortfall in the current 2020-2021 fiscal year, but presented little information about next fiscal year’s budget.

Joe Simoneschi, associate vice president of Finance and Administrative Services, addressed the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on CPP’s budget, explaining that prior to the pandemic, the California State University system was expecting a $199 million budget increase. However, due to the pandemic and subsequent state budget cuts, the CPP was left instead with a $20 million budget gap.

Still, revenue from both in-state tuition and fees actually increased due to over-enrollment, the university’s process of enrolling more students than its original annual projection.

“It is incredibly important to highlight the campuswide effort of over-enrollment,” said Simoneschi. “Without over-enrollment, many of our strategic initiatives would not be funded, tenure track density and advisor ratios would be impacted, student success and basic needs initiatives would not be as comprehensive and funding for operating expenses would be tight.”

He added, “In addition, over-enrollment during times of economic decline allows the campus to be more financially stable and sustainable.”

Nicolas Hernandez | The Poly Post

CPP’s focus on over-enrollment has resulted in the university boasting a 6.4% jump in enrollment from 2019 to 2020, the highest rate out of all 23 California State University campuses. With this increase, CPP’s student population has climbed to 29,704. This comes as national undergraduate enrollment is down 4% and 11 CSU campuses weather a drop in enrollment.

While attributing this statistic to CPP becoming a “destination campus” and the appeal of a polytechnic education, Jessica Wagoner, senior associate vice president for Enrollment Management and Services, also acknowledged that the high levels of enrollment pose their own challenges — especially in the virtual format.

Two of the most pressing issues reported by students is a lack of technological capacity for online classes and a slowdown in administrative response to inquiries.

To address these ongoing challenges, Wagoner stated that the university will be purchasing about 475 laptops and 400 hotspots to serve students currently on the technology loaner program waitlist and will be adopting new technologies in high-demand areas like the financial aid and registrar’s offices to improve efficiency.

“We all need to come together and resolve this issue,” added Associate Provost Sep Eskandari. “We recognize that even though demand is much higher than normal, we need to meet the students’ needs.”

As for future enrollment, Wagoner stated that CPP is currently seeing an increase of 20% in applications to the university and Eskandari added that preliminary registration numbers for the spring semester look similarly strong.

In addition to over-enrollment, Provost Sylvia Alva explained that the university has adopted several of the cost-cutting measures many universities nationwide are utilizing to offset their own budget shortfalls. These include CSU-level directives such as travel freezes and hiring chills as well as CPP-level strategies like decreasing discretionary spending, delaying some capital projects and incentivizing early retirement.

One notable exception, however, is a freeze on salary increases — a strategy used by more than a quarter of universities, according to a recent EAB survey. Instead, the CSU Board of Trustees approved a record-high salary for Chancellor-select Joseph Castro last month and a recent raise of 10% to the salaries of newly selected CSU Northridge and CSU East Bay presidents.

Largely absent from the meeting was much discussion about the 2021-2022 fiscal year. Simoneschi described this as “a conscientious decision” while the university awaits whether Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed January budget will recommend further budget cuts to the CSU system.

Other unknown factors highlighted by Simoneschi that may affect future fiscal considerations include whether the federal government passes another stimulus package as well as uncertainty over the COVID-19 pandemic itself.

Mario Guerrero, chair and associate professor in the Department of Political Science, attended the meeting and expressed concern for the future of the university.

“The CPP faculty and staff are worried about the future of their jobs. I had hoped that the administration would have addressed the future in a better way,” Guerrero said.

Specifically, Guerrero worries that due to budget cuts, the university will lose tenure-track faculty members to other institutions, and he hoped that the meeting would have addressed an immediate commitment to replace future losses.

As the campus community awaits more detailed considerations from the university for the next fiscal year, there are now ongoing discussions between administrators and ASI leaders to expand student input in the process. The recording of the meeting can be found at
CPP’s budget services website.

 

(This story was edited on Nov. 30, 2020 at 3:20 p.m.)

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