Students crowd the bike rack area at UC Santa Barbara. By 2019, 387,000 additional… (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times )
California's public colleges and universities must prepare to serve 387,000 more undergraduates by 2019 than in 2008 -- a 16% increase -- and will need an additional $1.5 billion in enrollment funding for the task, according to a report released Wednesday by the California Postsecondary Education Commission.
By 2019, demand for slots at California's community colleges is expected to rise by 313,253 students, according to the report. At the California State University and the University of California, demand will peak several years earlier, according to the projections, making the need for funding solutions more immediate.
Called "Ready or Not, Here They Come," the forecast was presented at a commission meeting in Sacramento. It is designed to provide short- and long-term guidance to the governor and Legislature as they assess funding needs for higher education. The commission is responsible for statewide education planning and coordination.
The report also said that if the state does not fully fund enrollment for the three college systems, at least to 2008-09 levels, as many as 277,000 students face being turned away next school year.
The report's release comes as California grapples with a fiscal crisis that has eaten into state support for higher education by more than $1 billion in the last two years, resulting in fee increases, furloughs and elimination of courses, the report says.
Although Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in his State of the State address proposed increasing higher education funding to at least 10% of the general fund by 2014, the report notes that securing extra resources will prove a formidable challenge in light of a two-year projected state budget deficit of $20 billion.
"Unless the state makes appropriate investments in student access, college-going and degree attainment, the next generation of young adults will be less educated than previous generations and this lower level of educational attainment will have a draconian effect on the health and welfare of California," said Stacy Wilson, the commission's senior researcher.
Karen Humphrey of the commission said the projections will help the state with planning. "Even if we can't make the size of investment we might want to make at this point, we have a long-term planning framework and the opportunity to try to find some of the resources we need," she said.
The report projects increased enrollment demand by minority students who are considered underrepresented on California campuses. By 2019, demand is expected to rise by 42.3% (313,000 students) for Latinos; 14.4% (2,990 students) for Native Americans and 7.5% (13,331 students) for African Americans. Demand by Asian American students also will increase, by 16.7% (77,428 students.)
In contrast, demand by white students is expected to fall by 2.1%, reflecting a projected population decline.
The numbers highlight the importance of ensuring that access is not reduced, especially at community colleges, which are the entry point for many Latino and black students, said Michele Siqueiros of the Campaign for College Opportunity.
Her organization is a California nonprofit with a goal of ensuring that the state produces 1 million additional college graduates by 2025 to meet projected workforce demands.
Siqueiros' group is working with the commission to determine the economic loss to the state if the thousands of students projected in the report are turned away.
The report cites a 2005 study by the UC Berkeley Survey Research Center that found that California receives a net return of $3 for every dollar it invests in helping students complete college. The return is evident in lower incarceration rates, higher incomes and increased tax revenues, Wilson said.
"That is one of the major messages that we are trying to demonstrate," Wilson said. "The return on investment is going to be huge. The public may be tired of supporting this level of enrollment growth but what is sometimes not apparent is the tremendous return to the state in supporting higher education."