However, university officials warned that UC cannot commit to expand its enrollments any further for the following 2009-10 year unless the state is able to provide funding at that time for the additional students enrolled in 2008-09.
UC recently announced that California undergraduate applications for fall admission are up more than 7 percent for the 2008-09 year, setting a new record for undergraduate application volume and reflecting strong increases among students traditionally underrepresented at the university.
The decision to continue with UC's historic practice of offering a place at one of its campuses to all students who meet its eligibility requirements, while in the interest of prospective students who have worked hard to earn a place at UC, will bring increased pressure on the rest of the university's state-funded budget. The governor's proposed budget for UC is $417 million below the 2008-09 level requested by the Board of Regents to sustain UC's service to California.
As a result, in order to continue to provide student access, the university will need to look even more intensively at budget reductions in other areas as well as student fee levels. In addition, while the university will offer a place in the UC system to all eligible applicants, the application increases and budget constraints mean it is possible that fewer students will be admitted to their campus of first choice this year relative to prior years.
"With the strong increase in undergraduate applications this year, we feel it is our obligation to California to continue meeting our commitments under the Master Plan for Higher Education and expand our enrollment capacity as necessary," said Wyatt R. Hume, UC provost and executive vice president for academic and health affairs.
"UC plays an important role as an engine of economic growth and social mobility for California, and providing students with access to the research-based education offered at UC is critical to fulfilling that role. Students have worked hard to become eligible for the university, and we do not want them to worry at the eleventh hour about whether they will have a place at UC.
"However, enrolling additional students without additional state funding is not sustainable. It clearly will bring additional pressure on the 2008-09 budget, where we already are faced with cuts that will impact the level of service the university is able to provide California as well as the university's affordability for students. For that reason, we believe it is important to make clear now that we will not plan to expand enrollments again in 2009-10 unless our unfunded student enrollments from 2008-09 are provided for in that year's state budget."
The exact number of additional students who would be enrolled in 2008-09 above 2007-08 levels will not be known for some time. It will depend on how many applicants have met UC's eligibility requirements and how many accept offers of admission from UC campuses. The university currently enrolls 220,000 students.
UC had been hoping to continue with plans in 2008-09 to increase graduate student enrollments in nursing and public health programs, given their importance to state workforce needs. However, because of the expense of operating these programs, the university will be unable to increase enrollments in those particular fields until state funding is available.
The governor's 2008-09 state budget proposal builds in a funding increase for UC under the 2004 "compact" with UC but then applies a 10 percent reduction, the same as for most other state General Fund programs, in recognition of the state's budget deficit of more than $14 billion. The result is a state-funded budget $417 million below the level the Board of Regents has identified as being necessary to sustain UC's level of service to the state in 2008-09.
No decisions have been made about how to fill that gap, but a variety of impacts are possible, including larger class sizes, reductions in campus services, reductions in instructional support and research programs, student fee increases, employee workforce reductions and pay freezes, and other cuts to UC programs serving the state. In addition, UC is committing to achieve substantial administrative savings throughout the system for the 2008-09 budget, with the first phase of reductions to be proposed to the Regents at the March meeting.
UC's long-standing practice has been to offer a place at one of its campuses to all undergraduate applicants who meet the university's eligibility requirements. Those requirements are available at www.universityofcalifornia.edu/admissions/undergrad_adm/pathstoadm.html.
The challenge of meeting that commitment increased when the university announced recently that a record 121,005 students had applied for freshman or transfer admission to UC in fall 2008, including a 7.7 percent increase in California freshman applications and a 7.1 percent increase in California transfer applications. Details of the applicant pool are available at www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/article/17227.
All three segments of California's public higher education system are facing serious cuts in the proposed budget.
"While each segment will need to address its budget challenges in different ways, we stand with the California State University and the California Community Colleges in urging our state's leaders to consider the return on investment in higher education as they make budget decisions this year," Hume said. "We are prepared to work with the state to address the shared solution to its budget problem. But we join with our partners in higher education in expressing concern about the accessibility and affordability of colleges and universities in a time of budget cuts."
UC's current state-funded budget is just over $3 billion per year. The university took substantial state budget cuts in the 1990s and again earlier this decade; state per-student funding for educating UC students has fallen from $15,830 in 1990-91 to $10,370 today, in current dollars.
The state gains a substantial return on its investment in the UC system. UC research, and the undergraduates and graduate students educated at the university, have been critical to the creation of many of California's leading industries - from agriculture to biotechnology to information technology. Today, the university is helping California take a leading global role in critical new industries -- from nanotechnology to digital media to "green" technology.
Nearly 400,000 jobs in California are directly dependent on UC, and the university is expected to have a hand in creating more than 2 million California jobs this decade, according to an independent economic analysis. UC contributes more than $14 billion in California economic activity and more than $4 billion in state and local tax revenues each year, not including the contributions of spin-off companies created through UC research.
For more information on the UC budget and the university's contributions to California, visit www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/budget.