UC President Janet Napolitano announces plan to add 14,000 beds to UC campuses by 2020

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In anticipation of a substantial enrollment boost of 6,500 undergraduate students in the 2016-17 academic year, UC President Janet Napolitano unveiled a plan at the UC Board of Regents meeting Wednesday morning to add 14,000 beds to UC campuses by 2020.

At the meeting, held at the UCSF Mission Bay campus, the regents also discussed the university’s record-high undergraduate application figures and Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal for 2016-17, and tabled a vote on increasing professional degree supplemental tuition.

The university plans to enroll an additional 6,500 in-state undergraduates this year — in accordance with the funding agreement reached between the state and the university last May — amid sharp criticism from state legislators over increasing out-of-state undergraduate enrollment.

The plan had called for 5,000 more California undergraduates from last year’s levels, but budget uncertainty and lower matriculation rates led to lower-than-expected enrollment in the current year, according to UC spokesperson Dianne Klein.

“In the course of this enrollment push, I have been listening carefully to our chancellors, our faculty, our staff and our students about the challenges that accompany this endeavor,” Napolitano said in her opening remarks. “One challenge is to sustain the academic excellence that makes us the nation’s preeminent public research university.”

Public commenters and board members raised concerns about the capacity of campuses to accommodate the enrollment growth.

Daniel Hare, Academic Senate chair and a professor at UC Riverside, said at the meeting that he was worried about providing a “real UC education” in the face of limited classroom and laboratory space. Additionally, UC Student Association President Kevin Sabo recounted students’ experiences with packed residence hall rooms, unusable showers on campus and forced evictions from off-campus housing by local landlords.

Several UC campuses are located in some of the most expensive real estate markets in California, and UC Berkeley ranks among the priciest colleges for housing in the United States.

Citing these concerns, Napolitano began the meeting by announcing a new goal — dubbed the President’s Student Housing Initiative to provide at least 14,000 additional beds for both graduate and undergraduate students on UC campuses by 2020. An internal team will visit each of the 10 UC campuses and work to accelerate the campus’ own planned expansions.

A record number of students will be competing to take those new spots: Student application figures topped 200,000 for the first time in the university’s history. UC Provost Aimee Dorr praised the numbers as a welcome “first step” for the planned enrollment boost.

Several regents, however, raised concerns that the UC system might not be doing enough to ensure campus diversity.

UC Regent Bonnie Reiss said during the meeting that she was concerned that the university is “not moving the needle enough” in favor of diversity. Alumni Regent Rod Davis echoed her concerns and said that in order to better represent California, campuses should be “intentionally, aggressively generous towards admission of transfer students.”

New students will enter a university that is out of a budget crisis but still underfunded by the state for planned student enrollment, according to Klein.

Brown allocated approximately $350 million in additional funding to the university. Chief Financial Officer Nathan Brostrom described Brown’s budget for the upcoming year’s budget to be as large as was expected. 

The board also began discussion about an 8 percent increase in professional degree supplemental tuition. Four nursing programs would be affected by the increase, but after several regents voiced concerns, discussion was tabled until March.

The regents will reconvene Thursday to vote on the creation of a student adviser position to supplement student representation on the board.

Philip Cerles covers higher education. Contact him at [email protected].