In Nov. 2008, UC executives warned the state of California that if funding was not provided, the state would see a UC system-wide cutback in admission offerings. As the new year opens and the regents announce a proposed 6 percent cut back in admissions for qualified applicants, some UC hopefuls will see doors close.
While those students who may have been admitted just last year might not make the cut in 2009, Megan Braun, president of the Associated Students of UC Irvine, said that sacrifices will be necessary in order to cope with the difficult economic situation.
“While it is unfortunate that there may be fewer spaces … at a time when more and more students are banking on the affordability of a public institution … the UC system’s first obligation is to its existing students. Therefore, if the Regents determine that curtailing freshman enrollments is necessary, I would support this decision” Braun said.
The regents cite an absence of state funding, continuing budget cuts and the need to preserve instructional quality as the reasoning behind this proposal.
ASUCI’s Vice President, Kyle Olney, said, “Over five years ago, then UC president and the governor of California signed a contract specifying enrollment funding. [However,] due to the state budget crisis, the governor of California stated that he would no longer be able to honor this contract.”
Compounding the dilemma is the fact that the largest high school graduating class in California history is currently applying to college. Further, more students accepted offers of admission than expected in the 2008-2009 year. Thus, the UC had already exceeded its stipulated budget
Braun said that already this year, UCI has increased its enrollment by accepting approximately 4,000 new students. Not receiving the usual $11,000 per student from the state leaves a $44 million funding gap.
However, UC Student Regent, D’Artagnan Scorza said, “It is important to note that we are not over-enrolled; we are under paid.”
With government funding reduced by 10 percent, Scorza said the UCs must take all their options into consideration. One way to bring in additional income is by increasing the number of international students.
Olney adds that the average out-of-state student pays three times as much as California residents. “It’s definitely an unintended failure in the funding model that we are recruiting out-of-state and out-of- country people in order to float the in-state students.”
Although a future within the UC system may seem bleak for average high school graduates, it is not entirely unattainable. The Regents guarantee that enrollment procedures for the Los Angeles and Berkeley campuses will remain unchanged and enrollment at the 3-year-old Merced campus will continue to grow. Additional silver-lining includes an increase in transfer opportunity as the system plans to budget 500 more slots for transfer students from community colleges.
In spite of the fact that many counselors are urging students not to apply to the UCs due to declining acceptance rates, Scorza said that the applicant pool has not been affected yet; in fact, applications are up by 5 percent.
However, should students choose to opt out of the UC system, they may find more heartache within the state of California. In Nov. 2008, California State schools announced a plan to reduce its student body by 10,000, a much more drastic measure than UC’s 6 percent or 2,300 students. (Students currently applying to University of California graduate schools will not be affected by the plan as graduate enrollment will remain the same.)
Scorza does not agree with curtailing enrollment because it hurts underrepresented students, trims diversity and produces less California graduates; however, he, too, acknowledges that it may need to happen if the data suggests that it is the best way.
As the UC begins accepting less students and increasing prices, Scorza adds that increasing transparency by laying out exactly what is being done with UC funds would help gain the trust of the people and the governor’s office.
In a recent Los Angeles Times article, UC President Mark Yudof said the changes were regrettable. “I don’t like cutting out opportunities at all … These are very hard, difficult economic times. There will be sacrifices all around.”
Another unpopular proposition raised on Friday was that of a salary freeze and a termination of bonuses for nearly 300 of the UC system’s top administrators. The bad news shows no sign of stopping as administrators will be required to vote on whether to increase student fees again later this year.
Lack of funding, however, is a responsibility that lies with the legislature, Olney said. “We cannot sacrifice the quality of the university by not paying faculty and administration salaries or stop contributing money to research. We cannot curtail those activities because the state will not fund us.”