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A Lesson in Planning

Sacramento policy-makers could learn something about the right way to prepare for the future by watching California’s universities plan for a rise in enrollment over the next 17 years.

It is too early to tell how many new campuses will result from the planning now under way at the University of California and the California State University systems. But at least the scholars are not treating future growth like an avalanche that must first bowl them over before they can start digging their way out--a frame of mind that Sacramento unfortunately applies to all sorts of problems from transportation to health care.

David P. Gardner, president of the University of California, has put his board of regents on notice that the system may need as many as three new campuses to handle 63,000 more students than are now enrolled at UC. California State University, also facing booming enrollments, is working on answering growing student demand in both northern San Diego County and Ventura County.

Over the next year or two, university planners will be trying to calculate how how many new colleges can actually be financed, where they should be located and whether the growth can be accommodated by communities in which new campuses would be built and old campuses expanded. Part of the process will involve making more efficient use of existing buildings and working more closely with community colleges, which can ease some of the growth pressures by preparing students over a two-year period for transfer to four-year campuses.

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The missions of UC and Cal State are to educate California’s best-qualified high-school graduates. The number considered best-qualified keeps growing. UC expects 217,000 students by 2005, up from today’s 154,000. The Cal State system expects 440,000 students by 2005, an increase of 100,000 from the fall of 1987.

The universities must build not only campuses but faculties as well. For example, the UC system anticipates needing 10,200 new professors between now and 2005 because of growing enrollments and faculty retirements.

A key question is money. UC Vice President William B. Baker says that the university’s budget must grow by 9% a year to accommodate growth and inflation. It cannot meet that level unless the Gann spending limits are changed to allow the state to spend more of the money that it collects in taxes. So higher education’s planning for the future must include a strong push to rewrite that limit so that all vital state programs are not starved just when they should be growing.

No matter what the outcome of the various planning steps by the UC and CSU systems, they are at least engaged in the process. So is the public school system, which is struggling to build enough schools to meet its needs. But education is not the only area in which Californians are placing heavier demands on state services. Transportation, land use, health care and the concerns of a growing elderly population need this same kind of planning.

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