Opinion: Student voices on enrollment and budget crisis 

Opinion: Student voices on enrollment and budget crisis 

Graphic by Elise Bechtel

By Andreas Garza

This opinion article is based on the opinion and perspective of the writer. They do not reflect the views of The CI View.

The overall anxiety the student body here at CI feels regarding the dropping enrollment as well as budget cuts varies from student to student, despite the issue being a pervasive one for the entire campus. It is an unspoken rule that students do not often check their email – unless it pertains to the grade of a test they did not study for, or even for a package that finally came in three days after it was actually delivered – but there has been some communication from President Richard Yao regarding enrollment and the budget. I spoke to three students of varying years and majors to gain insight into what they think about the situation at hand and what could be done.

Tracy Canales, a fourth-year global studies major, heard about the dropping enrollment and looming budget cuts thanks to the transparency of her professors. Due to her upcoming graduation, Canales will not bear the brunt of the cut budgets. However, she still feels not only grave concern for both future and current students, but also a worry for the future of the University.

During her time at CI, Canales participated in Model United Nations and other international experiences. She expressed worry that the availability of student experiences will be impacted: “It’s sad to think that the declining enrollment will just result in less opportunities for students, which I think ultimately makes a campus less enticing.”

Looking back in retrospect, Canales concluded with feelings of appreciation for her time here at CI: “I think my time at CI has been incredibly well-spent because of the wonderful opportunities I’ve been lucky to have … Although it won’t affect me since my time at CI is almost over, I think of my friends and peers who may have a less enriching experience at CI because of the budget cuts.”

Stevie Lucas-Zerbe, second-year pre-nursing student, heard about the unfolding situation from their professors as well. As a second-year student resident advisor, they feel the effects differently. “Working as a student assistant I have taken on more responsibilities assigned to me that would normally be geared toward other paid staff.”

Lucas-Zerbe explained that they were assigned the holiday clean-up tasks involving the cleaning of shared spaces, as an example. “This is not something I am upset about. While I am told that this is included in our contracts, I am just a little confused why this isn’t done by housekeeping/maintenance since they are paid by the hour.”

Outside of work, Lucas-Zerbe feels the effects even in the classroom: “In addition to this, I have noticed that the majority of my classes this semester have been online and my classes are larger in size. I have to wonder if this is also because of budget cuts and the University not allowing lecturers to move up and become tenured professors.”

As for looking into the remaining years they have at CI, Lucas-Zerbe worries about the effect the dropping enrollment will have on morale and involvement: “I think it affects the morale of the campus. CI is already a commuter campus, so school spirit is pretty strained as it is. While CI is one of the more affordable CSU’s, I think we kind of pay for that lack of spirit, especially in campus life. At the majority of events I have been to, it has been pretty dead.”

To tackle the dropping enrollment and budget cuts, Lucas-Zerbe stated, “I think more time and resources needs to be put into things the student body actually deems helpful rather than what Administration thinks would be best.” They described this might include something as simple as placing air conditioning in the student dorms for the warmer fall semesters.

Connor Polanco, third-year business major, had also heard about the dropping enrollment and cut budgets through his professors. However, as a business major, these kinds of things tend to become points of interest. “I first heard about the drop of enrollment in my Management of Organizations class from my professor and he was brainstorming reasons with the class why it is and what could be done differently to try and get enrollment back up.”

With classes dropping and the catalog shrinking, Polanco worries about his future academic standing, as well as the academic standing of others. “It can be hard to find spots in certain classes that I want. I found myself waitlisted for certain classes that I planned on taking and was forced to find alternatives to fill my units and eventually fulfill my graduation requirements. Students are going to find it harder and harder to find classes that they want.”

With a different outlook on potential solutions, Polanco said: “We need our President to be more active. President Yao needs to do a better job of gaining sponsors for the school. The more sponsors the school gets the more money the school would get. From there, the money needs to be spent on things that would have the students come first. The school needs to increase funding for more on campus facilities. Whether it be more parking or cheaper parking, better housing facilities, increased quality of cafeteria food, or the refurbishing of older classrooms, the campus of CSUCI is what makes its identity. Building a campus that is as efficient and beautiful as possible is what is going to drive more people to want to attend it.”

Regardless of the press releases, statements, promises or even improvements, however big or small, made by the University, I believe the setbacks will be felt most strongly by those who make this campus: faculty and students. Canales is more than correct – the CI experience will become less enriching for the average dolphin, and the average dolphin will have to rely on those who are cushioned by their salary.

As a student, one can only sit back and hope that their favorite professors have enough classes allotted to them to make a living, that the classes required for their major are even offered, that expenses already indebting enough do not rise, that vital programs and experiences are not cut and lastly, that their experience at CI is one they can look back on in a positive light. Though the responsibility to offer solutions may fall on many, understanding the needs of students, rather than assuming, is what will be key for the future of CI.