The threat of more budget cuts has led the California State University system to shut out thousands of midyear applicants for spring terms starting in January.
Only eight of the system's 23 campuses -- including Cal State East Bay, but not San Jose State -- will accept transfer students for the spring 2013 term, and none will accept new freshmen, said Robert Turnage, the university's budget chief.
The CSU system also is preparing to deny admission to up to 25,000 qualified applicants in fall 2013 if Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure fails at the ballot box, Turnage said. Cal State generally guarantees admission to the top one-third of the state's high-school graduates.
Last year, Cal State campuses accepted about 70,000 applicants -- including freshmen and transfers -- to the current spring term, he said. About 16,000 students transferred from community colleges or other schools in January, but only a few hundred transfers will be accepted to next year's spring term.
The decision will leave thousands of community-college students with an unenviable choice: Spend the time and money taking unnecessary community-college classes for an extra semester or drop out and try to make ends meet until Cal State reopens its doors.
Some students may never return to school if they take that break, said Vivian Virkkila, who directs the transfer center at the College of Alameda.
"You're ready to go, you're ready to transfer, and then there's this block," she said. "You really don't know how this is going to trickle down."
Community colleges already are dealing with crowded classrooms that have made it difficult for students to get classes needed to transfer. Keeping thousands of students in those schools for the extra term will make that situation worse, said Rich Copenhagen, a student at College of Alameda and a member of the statewide Student Senate.
"This is taking the cuts a little more extreme than in the past," he said. "It puts a further burden on us."
With a "trigger" budget cut of at least $200 million dependent on November's statewide tax election, the university cannot afford to accept new students for the spring, Turnage said. The state cut the university's budget by $750 million last year.
"There is no guarantee that trigger cut won't grow," he told reporters Monday. "Who knows what additional curveballs may get thrown at us?"
California must adopt a state budget by July 1, often creating problems for universities and colleges, which admit applicants earlier in the year. With so much riding on November's ballot measure, the timing this year will be even more difficult.
"There's always this kind of disconnect between the budget cycle and the enrollment cycle, but this year is especially bad," said Steve Boilard, higher-education chief for the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office. "It's a lousy situation."
Matt Krupnick covers higher education. Contact him at 510-208-6488.