California’s Public Universities: Harder To Get Into

Gaining admission to California’s public universities is becoming more difficult. Not only are the University of California (UC) and the California State University (CSU) increasing student fees in response to state budget cuts, they are also reducing enrollment. The decisions to cut enrollments come at a time when applications to the UC and CSU are increasing.

Last week, the UC President proposed cutting 2010-11 freshman enrollment by 2,300 students if the UC does not receive an increase in state funding. The proposal follows a reduction of 2,300 to freshman enrollment made in 2009-10. The decision to reduce UC enrollment comes after two years of increasing freshman applications to the UC. Between 2007 and 2009, the number of California freshman applicants increased by nearly 6,900 (9.3 percent). This increase in applications, coupled with enrollment reductions, has made it more difficult for Californians to gain admission to the UC: 72.5 percent of California freshman applicants were admitted to the UC this fall, compared to 77.5 percent in the fall of 2007.

The CSU also is planning to reduce enrollment. By the spring of 2010, the CSU plans to enroll 10,000 fewer students and the system projects a total enrollment reduction of 40,000 students over the next two years – a cut of approximately 9 percent. This reduction is likely to make it more difficult to gain admission to the CSU, especially given recent increases in applications. Between the fall of 2007 and 2008, freshman applicants to the CSU increased by more than 12,600 (8.4 percent), and the admission rate dropped from 76.1 percent to 68.8 percent.

Recent budget cuts to higher education call into question the state’s commitment to provide its residents with access to a high-quality, affordable college education. In the absence of additional funding, not only will fewer Californians have the opportunity to earn a college degree at the state’s public universities, but the state’s employers may have an even tougher time finding the highly skilled workers they need to compete successfully in the global economy.

— Jonathan Kaplan

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