UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA REGENTS CUT FRESHMAN ENROLLMENT BY 6%; EAST COUNTY EDUCATION LEADERS ASSESS IMPACT ON LOCAL STUDENTS AND COMMUNITY COLLEGES

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By Miriam Raftery

January 15, 2009 (San Diego's East County) -- Grappling with cuts in state funding, regents at the University of California voted yesterday to cut freshmen enrollment by 6%, eliminating 2,300 spots for students throughout the UC system. The cuts occur at a time when UC is receiving more applications than ever before, as fewer students can afford tuition at private colleges and universities.

Obviously, this could have a big impact on Grossmont students getting accepted to a UC school, and I am not sure that the CSU (California State University) system will be able to take up the slack, Dick Hoy (photo), trustee on the Grossmont Union High School District board, told East County Magazine. I read recently that over 40,000, in fact it may be over 50,000, undergraduates were received by SDSU for the fall 2009. I wish I had a good suggestion, but even the community colleges may end up impacted, he said. I would hope that the state Legislature would do all that it could to protect education.

Omero Suarez, chancellor of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College district in El Cajon, said the UC system's enrollment cuts will likely mean more students applying to community colleges for their first two years of higher education. Locally, enrollment is already up 15% at Cuyamaca College and 6% at Grossmont College over last spring. This is in spite of the fact that we've cut back on the number of classes offered at both institutions, so that means we are being considerably more efficient, he said, offering fewer options and filling up classes to the maximum level. If we get more students, we will do everything possible to accommodate these students within the spaces that we have.

One bright spot is that the UC cuts only apply to freshman admissions, not transfer students. My hope and expectation is that we will continue to be able to maintain transfer agreements, Suarez added.

Doug Deane, education chair for the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce, called the reduction in admissions regrettable, but understandable given the current fiscal crisis in California. He supports the Governor's position and does not foresee an easy alternative. But he added, I see this as an opportunity for our great Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District and for other local colleges like Chapman University, San Diego Christian College, University of Redlands, and National University.

Both Cuyamaca and Grossmont College have undertaken ambitious construction and remodeling projects to accommodate already-growing demand, he noted. I believe that they will be able to handle any additional students who cannot gain admission to the UC or CSU systems, Deane predicted, and they will do so while providing an exceptionally high level of quality. For this reason, I do not believe that the admission cut will have a significant impact on East County.

UC officials indicate that students whose grades and test scores make them eligible will still be able to attend the University of California. But students rejected by their preferred campuses will be directed to U.C. Merced, the newest and least popular campus.

Regents voting in favor of the enrollment cuts fault the Legislature and/or the Governor. For those of you who want to yell, yell at Sacramento, regent Richard Blum observed, according to the Sacramento Bee. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget proposal calls for $131 million in budget cuts from the UC system by June 2010.

But others stood firmly against the cuts. If we do this, if we break this promise to California citizens, we're going to lose public support, said regent Eddie Island, one of two regents who voted against the cuts, along with student representative Artagnan Scorza.