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UC is considering limiting freshman enrollment in fall

November 20, 2008|Larry Gordon | Gordon is a Times staff writer.

SAN FRANCISCO — UC regents threatened Wednesday to place some unspecified limits on freshman enrollment next fall if the deficit-battered state government does not provide enough funding to the 10-campus university system.

However, the regents avoided the definitive steps that the state's other public university system, California State, proposed earlier this week to reduce freshman admission and enforce earlier than usual deadlines for applications.

At the urging of UC system president Mark G. Yudof, the regents' finance committee backed away even from using the word "freeze" in describing the possible enrollment limits. Yudof said he wanted more time to study the issue and more wiggle room with the Legislature and governor. The panel then adopted a vague motion that called on UC to "curtail" the numbers of freshmen if state funding is not adequate.

"No one wants to curtail the opportunity, but how do we keep absorbing 5,000 more possible students a year when no one is giving us the money to pay for them?" Yudof asked rhetorically. About 37,000 freshmen started at UC campuses this fall.

He said the regents might meet next month to discuss details, and he suggested a first step might be to deny more students a spot at their first-choice campuses and offer them instead places at the 3-year-old Merced campus, which has room to expand.

UC now enrolls about 225,000 undergraduate and graduate students but says it receives state funding for only about 215,000. With the international economic crisis and mounting state deficits, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is proposing a midyear $65-million cut from the $3 billion in state funds UC expected to receive for the 2008-09 school year. And the outlook for next year is grim, officials said.

"If we can hold our own, we will be lucky," regents board Chairman Richard Blum told reporters at the meeting at a UC San Francisco facility. "So we are running out of options."

Nevertheless, the regents' finance committee approved what was described as a very optimistic budget request for next year, seeking about $530 million more in state general funds, to stake out an early negotiating stance in Sacramento. That plan would include a 9.4% rise, or about $662 more a year, in in-state undergraduate fees, to a total average of about $8,670. Room, board, books and other expenses can add $12,000 to $14,000 more. Regents probably will not vote on the fee proposal until spring.

On enrollment, Yudof and the UC regents clearly were reluctant to follow the proposal issued Monday by Charles B. Reed, chancellor of the 23-campus Cal State system. For the first time in Cal State history, Reed said, he is prepared to turn away qualified students because of the worsening state budget crisis and reduce the 450,000 student body by about 10,000 next year with early deadlines and tougher entrance standards.

In another matter Wednesday, Yudof announced his support for much of a faculty proposal that would overhaul freshman admissions standards starting with fall 2012. The proposed changes are intended to help applicants who fall short by a technicality or whose high schools do not offer enough UC-required classes. The regents, after much debate, are expected to vote on the matter in January.

Under the proposal, UC applicants would still be required to take the SAT or ACT test with a writing section but would no longer have to take two supplemental exams in such areas as history or math.

Under current policies, students are evaluated separately by each campus to which they apply. If they are turned down and still deemed eligible for the UC system, they are guaranteed a spot at campuses that have space, often Riverside or Merced.

The plan would reduce the number of students guaranteed such admission from the top 12.5% of all high school graduates statewide to 9% and broaden the chances of students based on how they ranked in their high school.

A new category of applicants, called Entitled to Review, would be created to allow campuses to at least look at some students who have slightly lower grades and may be late in finishing requirements. Under the faculty plan, those students would have needed a minimum GPA of 2.8 without the grade boosts that UC gives for honors classes. On Wednesday, Yudof recommended that the lowest GPA for that group be 3.0, or a B, with the extra score for honors courses.

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larry.gordon@latimes.com

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