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UC, CSU Caps Likely

Limits on enrollment for freshmen in 2004-05 at the state university systems could shut out thousands of qualified students, officials say.

August 01, 2003|Stuart Silverstein | Times Staff Writer

Thousands of high school seniors are expected to be turned away from the state's public university systems in the 2004-05 school year because of new enrollment caps -- even though they meet the academic qualifications for admission, university officials said Thursday.

The caps, stemming from growth restrictions in the state budget approved by the Legislature this week, apparently would be the first systemwide limits at the University of California and California State University. They are being proposed as the state's college-age population is projected to rise 36% between 1998 and 2010.

The limits still must be approved by each university's governing body, but their endorsement is likely given economic realities.

A UC cap would break the system's 43-year-old policy of finding a place at one of its undergraduate campuses for high school students who rank among the top 12.5% of graduates in the state. The policy came with the adoption of the state's historic master plan for higher education in 1960.

"We are very concerned that, for the first time in memory, state budget cuts mean that we likely will not be able to offer admission to every student who meets our eligibility requirements," said Brad Hayward, a spokesman for the nine-campus UC system. "This is probably the clearest indication yet of the extent to which state budget cuts are compromising access and quality at UC, and it's a real tragedy for both students and the state as a whole."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday August 02, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 71 words Type of Material: Correction
University fees -- An article on proposed university enrollment caps in Friday's California section incorrectly stated that the state's two public university systems last year approved student fee increases of 10% to 11% before the even higher hikes adopted last month. In fact, the fee increases approved in December 2002 ranged from 10% to 15% for undergraduate and graduate students, and were 19% to 26% for professional school students at UC.

Stephen Klass, a UC San Diego undergraduate who is chairman of the University of California Student Assn., said capping enrollment should be a last resort. It is "essentially cutting off people who are eligible for the university from getting an education," he said.

In recent years, UC-qualified students have been turned down in growing numbers at selective campuses such as UC Berkeley and UCLA, but spots have been made available at less selective campuses such as UC Riverside and UC Santa Cruz.

University officials said Thursday that requirements could tighten further systemwide, so that even the least selective campuses would increasingly turn away qualified students.

In all, Hayward said, "several thousand" might be rejected for the 2004-05 freshman class.

For the larger but less academically selective California State University system, the admissions squeeze is also worsening.

Although some of the 23 Cal State campuses have capped growth before, the state budget agreement would, in the 2004-05 academic year, impose what is believed to be the first systemwide enrollment limit in the university's 42-year history.

Ernst Griffin, an administrator who handles enrollment issues for San Diego State, called the systemwide cap "really shocking" because of Cal State's longtime commitment to meeting the needs of the state's growing population. At most Cal State campuses, the practice has been to accept all high school seniors ranked among the top one-third of graduates in the state.

San Diego State -- one of the system's most selective campuses -- turned away about 10,000 qualified students for this year's entering class, and Griffin predicted that number would grow in the 2004-05 school year.

Like other crowded Cal State campuses, it is giving preference to applicants from its local drawing area.

In addition, he said, San Diego State this year is halting its customary practice of admitting students for the spring semester, a move being considered by other campuses in the system.

Cal State officials said the expected clampdown on spring admissions could hold enrollment for the coming school year to as many as 30,000 below the previously projected estimate of 424,000.

At less crowded campuses, however, the enrollment curbs could have little effect. For example, Cal State San Bernardino officials expressed hope that, despite budget cuts, they would still be able to expand their enrollment of 17,000 to 25,000 by the end of the decade.

"We're fortunate that we're not at capacity," said Louis Fernandez, the school's provost and vice president. "We're not as bad off as other schools."

However, Fernandez warned that if budget problems continue past the 2004-05 academic year, Cal State San Bernardino might have to absorb students turned away from other Cal State campuses.

"A lot of students are going to have trouble getting into schools," Fernandez said.

In both the UC and Cal State systems, officials said, the enrollment of graduate students and qualified community college transfer students could also be affected by the budget deal.

"We know there are going to be more students who need an education, who qualify to get an education and who ought to be able to get an education but ... [state universities] are not going to admit them. That, to me, seems absolutely contrary to the philosophy" of the state, said Peter Ucovich, president of Associated Students Inc. at Cal State Sacramento.

There are other reasons for college students to be anxious.

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