The University of California Board of Regents voted last week to reduce next year‘s freshman enrollment by six percent – 2,300 students – as a result of the continued erosion of state support.
Regents say all applicants meeting the minimum GPA and test score requirements will still be guaranteed a spot in the system, although fewer will be admitted to their first and second choice campuses.
The move, which comes during a year of record applicants at 98,000, will decrease UC Davis‘ freshman enrollment by 385, or eight percent. UCs San Diego and Irvine will be the hardest hit with 12 percent reductions. Berkeley and Los Angeles will be largely unaffected while UC Merced‘s enrollment will increase by 17 percent to accommodate students turned away from other campuses.
At a special meeting held Wednesday via teleconference, UC President Mark Yudof said UC had no choice but to cut enrollment. The system enrolls 11,000 more students than the state provides funding for, at a cost of approximately $122 million per year.
“We need to begin doing this, and the message I would send to the people who make these decisions about our budgets . . . is, when you ask us to absorb enrollment growth, when you cut our budget by $100 million, there is no free lunch,“ Yudof said.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s state budget proposal – which assumes an overall $14.5 billion shortfall – eliminates a planned UC budget increase of $210 million and calls for cutting an additional $131 million from the UC system by June 2010. State per-student spending has fallen nearly 40 percent since 1990, adjusted for inflation.
“We are at the point where we cannot accommodate an increase in unfunded enrollment without decreasing the quality of our students‘ educational experiences,“ said UC Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef in an e-mail. “We must strive to ensure that our students have the courses and support services they need to succeed given the very real budgetary constraints that we face.“
Currently UC Davis‘ enrollment exceeds its funding level by approximately 1,100 students. Next year‘s reduction in freshman enrollment will narrow that gap to approximately 850 students, said Robert Agee, director of Academic Budgets and Institutional Analysis at UC Davis.
“Reducing next year‘s freshmen class from what it otherwise would have been will … help us maintain a balance between access for qualified students and quality educational services for all enrolled students,“ Agee said.
The plan, which passed 19-2, will save an estimated $20 million of the UC‘s proposed $19 billion budget, approximately $3 billion of which comes from the state.
Regent Eddie Island, one of the two no votes along with student regent D‘Artagnan Scorza, voted against the measure for fear the cuts will disproportionately affect underrepresented minorities.
“I think the price is too high and the savings are too low, if they exist at all,“ Island said.
Student regent Scorza said he voted against the plan because in personal surveys, he found more students preferred to see student fee increases in lieu of cutting enrollment.
“We are not overenrolled, we are underfunded,“ he said.
Officials say the top eighth of California high school students meeting the minimum eligibility requirements will continue to be guaranteed a spot in the system, as established in 1960 with California Master Plan for Higher Education.
But with fewer spots available, it will be more competitive to get into top choice campuses and more students will be referred to UC Merced and UC Riverside. The plan predicts the vast majority of these students will decline the offers and go elsewhere.
“None of us likes this,” said Regent Chairman Richard Blum of the enrollment cut.
Blum made it clear, however, that he places the blame on state legislators.
“Everybody should understand that services are being hurt badly, not just at universities, but across the state . . . and it’s simply because you can’t get a decent budget passed,“ Blum said. “So those who want to yell, go yell at Sacramento.“
Regents attempted to offset the reduction by increasing the number of transfer student spots by 500 students next year and 250 students for 2010-2011.
The board also voted unanimously without debate to freeze the salaries of 285 of its top executives, all of whom are currently making six-figure salaries.
ALYSOUN BONDE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.