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Enrollment Takes a Slide at Three Cal State Campuses

May 28, 1985|DAVID G. SAVAGE

Three California State University campuses--at Humboldt, Dominguez Hills and Los Angeles--have been losing students recently because of changing fashions among students and some well-publicized academic troubles, according to university officials.

The popularity of Humboldt State, the state's northernmost university campus, has risen and fallen with the environmental movement, said Jack Smart, deputy provost at the Cal State headquarters in Long Beach.

Tucked along the coast near Eureka, "Humboldt was very popular in the early 1970s, but it has had a decline in the past few years," Smart said. Last fall, Humboldt had 6,113 students, down from a high of 7,460 in 1981.

The Dominguez Hills campus in Carson suffered a drop in enrollment after more than half of its graduates who took the new state teachers' exam in 1983 failed.

Its enrollment, which had risen slowly to a high of 8,300 in 1983, fell to 7,900 last fall. In the Cal State system, just as in public schools and community colleges, a loss of students translates into a loss of revenue and cutbacks in faculty.

University officials say they have been most concerned about the decline at the Los Angeles campus, because it has gone on for nearly a decade and has been much steeper than the enrollment drops at the other two campuses. Last fall, Cal State L.A. had 19,576 students, down from 25,276 in 1975.

"That's the toughest one to explain," Smart said. Over the last decade, he said, it has "gone from being predominantly Anglo to predominantly black to predominantly Hispanic to now largely Asian. It has had the image of being a campus of minorities, which may discourage some Anglo students."

James Rosser, the president of Cal State L.A., said he believes the enrollment slide has bottomed out.

Large Minority Enrollment

"We have the largest low-income and minority enrollment in the Cal State system," Rosser said. "And the college-going rates among those groups are declining."

He said that the university's teacher-education program, the second largest in the state, slipped badly in the last decade as demand for teachers fell. The program's reputation suffered too when half of its students who took the basic skills test failed.

Rosser believes that the teacher-training program will rebound since standards have been raised and demand for new teachers is increasing.

The Los Angeles campus, located east of downtown off the San Bernardino Freeway, opened its first dormitory last fall. In September, the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts will open on the campus, and Rosser believes the two additions will give the campus a new identity and more stability.

But university officials agree that enrollment may be more volatile in much of Southern California because, as Smart noted, "with the Los Angeles freeway network, a student has a lot of choices."

In Los Angeles and Orange counties, a commuting student can pick from Cal State campuses at Northridge, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Dominguez Hills, Pomona and Fullerton.

"We have excess space at the L.A. campus and a demand to add space at Pomona," Smart said. "But if we add there, are we drawing students away from the L.A. campus?"

Overall, the Cal State system saw a large and unexplained gain in freshman applications this year. By late April, 69,800 students had applied to enter one of the 19 campuses as freshmen next fall, up from 57,365 last year. However, the number of high school graduates has been falling slightly in recent years.

Officials speculate that more students may be bypassing the community colleges and seeking direct enrollment in a four-year university.

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