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Strategic Budget Advisory Committee (SBAC)
Strategic Budget Advisory Committee

San Jose State University Rejects 4,400 Prospective Freshmen

March 25, 2009

By Lisa M. Krieger - Mercury News

For the first time in its century-long history, San Jose State University is turning away qualified students from its incoming freshman class, citing the state budget crisis.

All eligible Santa Clara County students have been accepted. But 4,400 students from outside the county were rejected, then directed to California State University campuses that have more room. But it means some students who had hoped to enter San Jose State's unique meteorology program or rigorous engineering program are out of luck. And those who only applied to San Jose State — ignoring advice to apply to multiple colleges — may now find community college is their only option.

"It is very painful," said Veril Phillips, San Jose State's vice president for student affairs. "Unfortunately it was our only alternative."

University officials blame the budget for the enrollment cuts; overall the CSU system got 10 percent — $283 million — less than officials say they need. On Nov. 20, CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed asked every campus to cap enrollment because funding hasn't kept pace with a growing student body. For San Jose State, that meant a 9 percent reduction — 29,750 students in the 2009-10 school year, down from 32,750 in 2008-09.

"The situation is unprecedented," said Phillips. "We've never had a situation where there were so many applicants and we were not able to accommodate them."

San Jose State is not the only campus forced to shrink. Other campuses, such as Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, San Diego State University and Cal State-Long Beach, were forced to scale back the size of their student bodies.

In the Bay Area, the CSU campuses formed a partnership directing qualified students to each other's campuses — primarily CSU-East Bay in Hayward, which still had spaces, said CSU spokeswoman Teresa Ruiz.

San Jose State announced its admissions strategy after the chancellor's Nov. 20 announcement. All qualified students who applied to San Jose State before Nov. 20 were accepted, regardless of where they lived. But subsequent applicants were divided into two groups: county and noncounty residents. Qualified county residents were accepted; noncounty students were placed on a wait list.

In late February, San Jose State officials decided not to accept anyone on the wait list. Acceptance and rejection letters went out March 7. Of San Jose States 10,680 acceptances, about 35 percent went to Santa Clara County students and 65 percent to students from elsewhere.

Officials had warned that this was coming in a Dec. 24 letter that advised out-of-county residents to apply elsewhere. By then, San Francisco State's Dec. 10 deadline had passed. CSU-East Bay and CSU-Monterey Bay, with March deadlines, were still open.

"Some students didn't get in that applied. But most of them made other plans, to Cal State University-Monterey Bay or Cabrillo Community College," said Julie Edwards Levy, manager of career services at Scotts Valley High School. "They're working with what they have to work with. They're not happy but they're figuring it out."

San Mateo High School senior Justin Bautista applied to San Jose State the first day that applications were accepted — and got in.

"I'm glad that applying early helped my application. The admission system, in my opinion, should be based on a first-come, first-served type of basis," he said. "If a student is really interested in a school, it should make sense that they would apply as soon as possible. They should have a better chance of being admitted, just because they are more enthusiastic about going to that college."

In addition to trimming freshmen, San Jose State did not admit any transfer students who were just in their first year of community college or applicants seeking a second bachelor's degree. It has not yet decided the fate of out-of-county students who've completed at least two years of community college but who applied after Nov. 20.

Braced for additional restrictions next year, San Jose State has started early discussions about how to handle admissions for future students. This year's rejections were "a sledgehammer approach, where a much more targeted approach needs to be taken," said computer science professor Ken Louden.