- A new report on the future of the 150-year-old University of California says that while the system's large universities may continue to thrive, its smaller colleges will have to make difficult choices.
- Conducted by the Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California, Berkeley, the report shows that officials at many of the system's 10 campuses, which serve 273,000 students total, will have to decide between expanding to meet the growth in the number of eligible students and maintaining quality. It goes on to say this may be easier for Berkeley and UCLA, which could more easily generate income than could other campuses.
- The report shows that system enrollment increased by nearly 100,000 since 1990, yet it has maintained high levels of first-generation students and Pell Grant recipients. However, state funding was reduced from about $25,000 per student in 1990 to about $10,000 in 2015. The report concludes that methods the institutions are using to bridge the gap are wearing thin.
Like California, some states will see growth in the number of college-age students, but others will see declines, experts say. No matter the enrollment numbers, shrinking state funding is a near-universal problem, with some public colleges solving the problem by cutting programs and services and, in some cases, merging or closing their doors.
Other state institutions are adding programs in hot fields such as cybersecurity, partnering with K-12 school districts to feed the student pipeline and working with corporations to train adults, for example, to boost enrollment numbers and revenues or to just keep them stable.
Community colleges may be the closest to figuring out how to solicit new support from the private and public sectors. For instance, the California Community Colleges System, which has received increased state funding during the past five years, is partnering with businesses in the Doing What Matters for Jobs and the Economy program. Meanwhile, Southern Maine Community College, located in a state that is losing population, is training immigrants to be much-needed first responders using a workforce development grant.
Going forward, four-year public institutions should consider taking a page from community colleges' playbooks while continuing to seek new funding strategies.