University of California officials on Friday proposed reducing freshman enrollment for next fall by 2,300 students, or about 6%, to cope with what they said is insufficient state funding.
Enrollment would not be cut at UCLA and UC Berkeley, the most popular campuses, and expansion would continue at UC Merced, the newest school, according to the plan that is to be reviewed by the UC regents next week. The other six undergraduate campuses would have some freshman reductions, while overall slots for transfer students would rise.
"I don't like cutting out opportunities at all," UC President Mark G. Yudof said in a telephone interview from his Oakland office. But given expected steep state budget cuts, he said he reluctantly recommended the actions to protect UC's academic quality.
"These are very hard, difficult economic times. There will be sacrifices all around," Yudof said, adding that he has worked in recent weeks to minimize the enrollment reductions.
UC leaders say the effect may be softened by a demographic shift, as the number of high school graduates starts to decline this year. However, other experts predict that the economic crisis will push more students to UC campuses and away from more expensive private schools. UC freshman applications are running about 3% higher than last year.
Yudof emphasized that students whose high school grades and test scores meet UC eligibility standards would not be completely shut out of the system, although more would be denied a spot at their first-choice campus. As a result, enough students are expected to turn down a UC campus they never really wanted and instead attend a non-UC school.
Under the proposal, the number of students who transfer as juniors to UC from community colleges would increase by about 500, or about 3%. Yudof said that during the economic downturn, "we need to keep open cost-effective paths to UC, such as the community college transfer route." The rolls of graduate students would not change.
UC's total enrollment is about 226,000, and the state has not kept up with enrollment growth, leaving the system short of state funding for about 11,000 students, officials contend. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's recent budget proposal again fails to provide enough money for growth and calls for significant cuts in other UC funding, they said. The state is facing a $41.6-billion deficit by mid-2010, and the governor has indicated that education is not exempt from sharing the burden of hard times.
On Friday, Yudof also proposed a salary freeze and an end to some bonuses for 285 top UC administrators, although case-by-case exemptions might be allowed. Among employees affected by the freeze would be Yudof himself, who was hired last year with a $591,084 base salary and $237,000 in supplemental pension payments and other benefits.
California's other public university system, the 23 Cal State campuses, also announced a salary freeze Friday -- affecting more than 125 top administrators -- as well as cuts in travel expenses and hiring.
In November, Cal State took more dramatic action to limit enrollment than the UC plan. With earlier deadlines and some changes in entrance standards, Cal State seeks to cut its overall 450,000 student body by about 10,000 next fall.
UC regents have scheduled a telephone conference meeting Wednesday to debate and vote on the enrollment plan and pay freeze.
Later this year, they will have to decide on a tentative plan to raise basic fees 9.4%, or about $662, for most in-state undergraduates. That would bring the average UC bill to $8,670, not including housing, books and other expenses. Graduate and professional school fees would rise more steeply.
Some regents have suggested boosting the number of out-of-state undergraduates as a way to raise revenue, since those students pay $20,000 more a year than state residents. On Friday, Yudof said he had no plans to seek such an increase, though he said that "nothing is off the table in these financially difficult times."
UC student regent D'Artagnan Scorza said Friday that he wanted more data about how the freshman enrollment proposal might affect low-income, minority and rural students before deciding how to vote on it.
"I'm not happy at all about the idea of curtailing access, given the application increases this year," said Scorza, a UCLA graduate student. Yet he said he is concerned that UC does not have enough money to support more students.
Patrick Callan, president of the San Jose-based National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, was skeptical of Yudof's plan. Before cutting enrollment, UC should push research professors to teach more and should eliminate duplication systemwide in lightly enrolled graduate programs, he said.
Instead of considering those fundamental issues, UC and state officials always "put the pain on the students with tuition increases and enrollment reductions," Callan said.