Enrollment target impacts class availability

Provost Andrew Rogerson said continued increases to Sonoma State University’s enrollment target by the California State University system may eliminate the need for a success fee in the future.

“If we continue to have our target increased we get more base funding which takes away the need for a fee. Or if at that point, if there were a fee it would be for more faculty and other things, it could be a much smaller fee,” Rogerson said.

The provost said that Governor Jerry Brown’s commitment to begin funding the CSU system further is a sign of progress for the campus.

“[The governor] is forecasting that he’ll be giving [the CSU system] $142 million. It’s a slow growth period and it looks like it’s going to continue. So it’s quite optimistic,” Rogerson said.

Chancellor of the CSU Timothy P. White allocates the enrollment target to all 23 campuses. The target for each campus is mainly dependent on the amount of state funding provided to the CSU system.  

“[The enrollment target] isn’t based on the number of students you have [at the campus],” said the Associate Vice President for Academic Programs Elaine Sundberg. “It’s based on what they call the FTE, the full time equivalent, and that’s done at 15 units per student. Our target is 7,540, but we have more students than that but that’s still our target so what we have to do is manage how many units students we take each semester.” 

Vice President of the Associated Students Anthony Gallino said that the enrollment target is a significant factor in providing appropriate classes for students, not necessarily money. 

“Even if this institution did have the money [to provide more classes] they wouldn’t be able to offer the classes for anybody because our enrollment target is too low, we admit too many students,” Gallino said.

Rogerson emphasized the importance of maintaining the enrollment target to avoid the penalty of losing CSU funding.

“You’ve got to hit target and we’re allowed a bit of wiggle room, but either way you’ve got to give back money [if you go over or under your allocated target to the CSU],” Rogerson said.

To accommodate for student academic needs, the administration appealed to Chancellor White for an enrollment target increase of eight percent, but were awarded 3.5 percent.

 “We actually did quite well getting 3.5 percent, most campuses got less. Most [campuses] only got around two and three percent,” Rogerson said.

Despite the enrollment target increase, Gallino said limited class availability is still causing issues for students throughout the school year.

“It’s simply not sustainable to do this feast and famine, where we feast in the fall and starve in the spring. We need to figure out a way where we can tighten our belts a little more in the fall to allow for a little bit more in the spring,” Gallino said.

Rogerson said the current process of class enrollment exemplifies ‘the way we do business to live with the new funding model’ as a result of budget cuts in recent years.

“It’s unfortunate we have to go through that micromanaging and have to make students wait until they can get their classes, but when you are trying to manage the budget that’s the only prudent way to do it,” Rogerson said.

Sundberg acknowledged that recent budget cuts have also affected the campus’ ability to hire new faculty, another factor contributing to limited class availability.

“What [Sonoma State] has suffered and what the whole CSU has suffered is because we’ve had funding taken away from us; when faculty leave or retire from the university we didn’t have the funding to replace them,” Sundberg said.

The provost is considering the provision of online classes to alleviate the pressure of limited on-campus class availabilities.

“The system is putting out concurrent courses and these are online courses taken at other universities in the CSU and the student can take those for no additional cost,” Rogerson said.

Rogerson highlighted Sonoma State’s high four-year graduation rate as an indicator students are increasingly graduating faster.

“We have the highest four-year graduation rate out of all the [CSU] campuses. [About] 28 percent of our students graduate in four years and that is the highest in the CSU,” Rogerson said.