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State Budget Crisis Good for Private Colleges

State Budget Crisis Good for Private Colleges

The Fresno Bee

August 31, 2009

Gonzales said her schedule of evening and online classes at National University allows her to continue substitute teaching without missing work.

“I was working two jobs when I was going to Fresno State, but with day classes I had to take a lot of days off,” she said. “If I were at Fresno State, I’d have to take days off from substituting and probably lose about $200 a week in income.”

Night classes at University of Phoenix also appealed to Luke Sharits, 31, of Clovis.

“Of course, cost is always a big deal,” said Sharits, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business at University of Phoenix and is now working on his master’s degree there.

“I work 45 to 50 hours a week, and going to Fresno State and working full-time just wasn’t going to work,” he said. “It comes down to paying for convenience, and that’s fine.”

Some officials worry about the increasing number of students who can’t get into public colleges and universities because of the budget cuts — and that those students won’t be able to afford the higher-priced private alternatives.

“It’s my personal concern, and the commission is deeply concerned, about where California’s public higher education is going,” said Karen Humphrey, executive director of the California Postsecondary Education Commission and a former Fresno mayor.

“There’s concern about the ability of the public and private institutions to meet the state’s needs for the future in the current economic climate … and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better anytime soon,” she said.

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Fresno State’s Vinovrski acknowledged that budget crises at public institutions will make it difficult for students to get into classes for at least the next year. And that will continue to present business opportunities for both for-profit and nonprofit private schools.

“Because of cost considerations, many students will take classes at the community colleges as their first option if a class is closed here,” Vinovrski said. “But if they find that first option’s not available, it makes sense that they’ll go to the private schools.”

The CSU system expects to continue a policy in 2010 and 2011 of allowing no new enrollments for students returning to college for either a master’s degree or a second bachelor’s degree, he added.

“Relatively speaking, those students are going to be a lower priority than those who want to get their first college degree,” Vinovrski said. “And if they can’t get in here, we’re probably going to see those people going to private institutions as well.”