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State Cuts, Increasing Tuition Seen Imperiling Calif. Higher Education

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California's higher-education system is headed for a "state of emergency" that requires drastic measures to insure access to college for future generations, a new report says.

The report, issued late last month by the California Higher Education Policy Center, warns that shrinking state funding and increasing tuition may prove a lethal combination.

Since 1989, state appropriations to the University of California and California State University systems have declined by 13.7 percent and 8.8 percent respectively. Over the same period, tuition has increased by 124.9 percent and 89.5 percent, while student aid has increased by only 38.6 percent.

In the past three years, statewide public enrollments have declined by 187,000, largely as a result of tuition hikes and institutionwide downsizing.

"It is with considerable sadness, then, that I and other observers have watched that great system topple from its pedestal as hard economic times have undercut both the quality and equality of the system," David W. Breneman, the report's author and a professor at the Harvard University education school, says in the report's introduction.

Over the next decade, the state of California is expected to experience tremendous growth in its college-age population--about 450,000 students, according to the report.

Coping With Growth

Mr. Breneman notes that the California Commission on State Finance has projected a deficit of $4.5 billion through 1997 in the state's general fund. In order to meet enrollment growth, he says, the state's economy would need to grow at a compounded rate of 7 percent annually for the next 10 years.

In "A State of Emergency? Higher Education in California," Mr. Breneman suggests that, because such economic growth is unlikely, the following measures, while radical, are necessary. He says the state should:

  • Stop admitting out-of-state students to its public colleges;
  • Allow California residents to use state aid at out-of-state colleges to relieve enrollment pressures at in-state public colleges. And, for the same reason, increase aid for students attending in-state private colleges;
  • Cut back graduate programs at all but the state's top research institutions; and
  • Give first enrollment priority to young people ages 17 through 24, second to 25- to 34-year-olds, and third to students older than 34.

Other states that Mr. Breneman says are likely to experience both increased demand for higher education and decreased state support are Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.

Copies of the report are available free from the California Higher Education Policy Center at (408) 287-6601.

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