Demand for enrollment at the California State University system is expected to rise by 57,000 undergraduate students over the next five years, driven by larger numbers of eligible high school graduates and community college transfers, according to a state report released Wednesday.
But the report, by the California Postsecondary Education Commission, warns that those students will encounter an almost insurmountable hurdle caused by the state budget crisis, as Cal State moves to slash enrollment by 40,000 students in the next two years.
If those reductions take place, nearly 56,000 prospective students will be denied access to the university by fall 2011, according to the projections.
The result will be lost opportunities, especially among Latino and black students, whose demand for enrollment is projected to increase substantially in coming years, the analysis says.
The report is intended to aid long-range education planning, officials said. Cal State is the nation's largest public university system, with 23 campuses and 450,000 students.
"They are in the classic position of being between a rock and a hard place," the commission's executive director, Karen Humphrey, said of Cal State, which, like the state's other university and college systems, is facing increased demand during the downturn.
"What these projections say is that in spite of the hard times, students still want to pursue higher education and we need them to pursue it," she said.
Cal State spokeswoman Claudia Keith said officials were not surprised by the projections, which gauge enrollment demand from 2008 to 2019.
As the university struggles to manage enrollment, students will face stricter eligibility criteria such as a higher grade-point average, Keith said. They also will be urged to graduate faster, even as courses and majors are eliminated on many campuses.