Sonoma State University officials expect to receive up to $3.3 million more in next year's state budget, which they say will be used to hire more faculty and help students graduate in four years.
But Gov. Jerry Brown's budget, which includes an additional $142.2 million for the 23-campus California State University system, leaves SSU short of pre-recession funding levels. State lawmakers passed the budget Sunday.
During the economic downturn, officials at the Rohnert Park campus saw their budget slashed by 30 percent from a high of $64 million in 2008. Funding has increased each year since 2012.
SSU President Ruben Ar-mi?na said he expects to have $53 million for the coming school year, which is still about 20 percent below 2008 levels.
"I'm not unhappy," Armi?na said. "I'm 20 percent from being happy."
The campus will use the increase to hire 45 new permanent faculty members over the next three academic years, Armi?na said. SSU already has hired nine new faculty members for the coming year, which will allow the campus to offer more high-demand required classes for popular majors.
Demand for these bottleneck classes has exceeded the number of seats available, preventing some students from graduating on time.
Campus officials proposed raising student fees last year to address the affected classes, but students and faculty strongly opposed the plan.
Armi?na said the so-called "success fee" proposal is off the table.
The $142.2 million system-wide increase is $100 million short of what CSU trustees had sought, Armi?na said, adding that he is pleased funding levels are rising.
"More is better than less, there's no question about that," he said.
The funding increase will cover an additional 270 full-time students expected to attend the campus in the coming academic year. Armi?na said officials also are working on a plan to permanently close a $1.7 million deficit in the academic affairs division.
Margaret Purser, outgoing head of the faculty, said the administration made some sound fiscal decisions at the end of the academic year, including backing off the fee hike and updating the university's strategic plan.
She said the budget increase is a step in the right direction, but falls short of addressing all of the school's financial woes.
"I think it's a good thing that budgets are trending upward," she said. "I don't want to give a false sense that this will solve all of the problems. It doesn't get us back to where we were."
You can reach Staff Writer Matt Brown at 521-5206 or firstname.lastname@example.org.