UC President Janet Napolitano said Wednesday that she is preparing a plan to significantly increase the number of California undergraduates in the 2016-17 school year throughout the university system, including at UCLA and UC Berkeley, where admission is the most difficult.
Napolitano declined to give details of the proposal and how it might meet the state Legislature's demands until she unveils it at next month's meeting of the UC Board of Regents in San Francisco. She described it as "a really good plan" that will "apply to all the campuses. It will apply to Berkeley and UCLA as well as to Riverside and Merced."
The Legislature is offering a $25-million bonus in state funding if UC increases the number of California undergraduates by 5,000 for the 2016-17 school year. That would amount to about a 10% rise over the nearly 50,000 new in-state freshman and transfer students who enrolled this fall.
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Last spring, some UC officials said they were uncertain whether such a target could be reached and whether enough new dorm beds and classes could be added in time. But Napolitano said her administration has been working through the summer on how to boost the number of such students.
"I think it was a challenge to us by the Legislature," she told a meeting of editors and reporters at The Times. "I think we are in the business of accepting challenges and solving problems."
The rising number of students from other states and nations at UC is a sore point for some legislators and applicants even though those non-Californians pay tuition that is about triple the amount that Californians pay. UC officials contend that no qualified state resident is being squeezed out of the UC system, although they may not be able to get into their first- or second-choice campuses.
This fall, about 20% of the 62,000 new freshmen and transfer students across all nine UC undergraduate campuses are from outside California, although the share is higher at UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC San Diego.
Earlier Wednesday, Napolitano addressed a meeting of the Town Hall Los Angeles downtown and spoke of how UC is tackling such societal and scientific issues as climate change, the drought and cancer treatment.
She also told members of the civic forum organization that UC is working to reduce its costs and keep tuition stable, but she said she thought that too much discussion about costs can be harmful and "constricts any meaningful dialogue" about UC.
"It squeezes that dialogue down into spreadsheet cells. It eliminates the voices of Californians with different perspectives and different ideas. It eliminates your voices. And it eliminates what is really at stake in these conversations: the future of the University of California, and what that future means for this state and, by extension, for the nation and the world."
Legislators and the public, she said, also should consider so-called opportunity costs.
"What is the opportunity cost of not having a strong University of California? What is the opportunity cost of not having a public research university in California that is home to Nobel laureates, MacArthur genius award winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, and some of the best researchers and scholars in the world?
What is the opportunity cost of not instructing more than 230,000 students a year at UC? Or of not increasing enrollment to accommodate more Californians?" she said.
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