California fall undergraduate enrollment declines have slowed, but still ‘troubling’
This story first appeared in the Oct. 22 issue of The Sacramento Bee.
There are few indicators that California’s colleges have a crisis on their hands. At the University of California, enrollment numbers have been declining in the past two years, and many students, including those at community colleges, are not enrolling at all. At California State University, enrollment has declined from 2010 to 2013, as have the total number of undergraduates.
But many of the state’s community colleges, including community college presidents, teachers, and university representatives, say they are seeing a similar pattern. They fear a growing crisis.
“We are seeing the same thing that we’re doing in our higher-education schools,” says Jeff Fossel, vice chancellor for education at the California Community Colleges System and a former president of the state’s Community College Union. “They are not improving, the population is not improving.”
The problem is that the state’s higher-education institutions have been cutting back drastically, and some community colleges have been hit the hardest, including at Sacramento City College.
In January, SCC’s president, Bob Browning, and his staff were notified by the legislature that the college would be losing $27 million in state funding that SCC had earmarked to spend largely on new faculty and facilities. SCC is projected to lose $30.4 million from the Legislature because of falling enrollment and decreased state funding starting this fall. To make up the difference, the college will need to trim its budget by 10 percent, including firing 10 to 15 tenure-track faculty and staff.
“There’s a lot of concern among us,” Browning says. “I had conversations with colleagues and faculty, and they’re all very concerned.”
At the University of California, which also loses state funding, enrollment has declined every year since the Great Recession. But enrollment is still up, at least for now, although recent numbers reflect the most severe decline in enrollment the university had seen since 1985.
In Sacramento, where the state Legislature has cut $1.6 billion from the higher-education budget — including the University of