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Starting next semester, San Diego State University students will dig deeper into their own pockets to help pay for more professors.

The newly passed Student Success Fee, which will cost each student an extra $400 a year, will finance the university’s plan to hire 80 new tenure-track professors by the middle of 2017.

Implicit in the pitch for the new fee is the idea that SDSU needs more money to pay for more professors.

But just seven years ago, SDSU was serving about 4,200 more students than it does now with roughly the same amount of money.

This raises a question about the need for more professors. Even some current ones don’t necessarily believe their ranks need bolstering.

“SDSU is teaching fewer students than it did in 2008, and thus needs fewer faculty members and sections,” said Brian Adams, a political science professor.

To explore this idea, let’s first take a look at SDSU’s enrollment.

SDSU has almost 11 percent fewer students now than it did in 2008. That’s in part because of state budget cuts. The state cut $78 million in funding from the school.

The state also mandated the university decrease enrollment by more than 4,000 students because officials believed there wouldn’t be enough services and classes for a larger student body. When state funding and enrollment went down, the university began to rely more on the remaining students to pick up the tab.

The amount of money SDSU received from tuition has gone up. Research grants and private funding also filled in major gaps. SDSU’s overall budget is about 2 percent lower than it was in 2007, and now stands at $721 million. Here’s how SDSU’s budget and sources of revenue has looked over the years:

You can see the large cut in state funding. The “other revenue” figure refers to parking and housing fees, grants and contracts, among other revenue sources.

SDSU says the state budget cuts forced the school to shed faculty and class offerings. Over the years, the school lost more than 200 full professors over nearly 80 departments. More than 1,000 class sections were eliminated.

SDSU made up for the loss of full-time professors by relying more on teaching assistants, which are significantly cheaper.

Here’s how the makeup of the school’s faculty has changed:

These numbers reveal a different argument for the fee: The kind of teacher that SDSU students get.

“Thinking thoughtfully about where the university wants to go in the betterment of students, it’s important that we put resources into such an important thing that is hiring this faculty,” said Kathy LaMaster, vice president of academic affairs.

The new student fee is expected to bring in about $13 million more annually to the university’s budget. From this pot of money, 90 percent will go to hire 80 new professors at an average salary of $146,000, plus benefits. The remainder will go toward academic-related needs like equipment, software or field trip funding.

SDSU also plans to hire 60 additional tenure-track professors, who would be paid for by fundraising. That means by mid-2017, the university hopes to have 140 new full-time professors.

Ana Ceballos

Ana Ceballos is a reporting intern at Voice of San Diego. She can be reached at ana.ceballos@voiceofsandiego.org...

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