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UCD green lights ‘bold’ growth

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From page A1 | March 08, 2013 |

UC Davis leaders made official on Thursday their intent to grow the campus by as many as 5,000 undergraduate students, 300 faculty and 600 staff members by 2020.

Increasing the number of out-of-state and international students who pay higher tuition will fund the “2020 Initiative.” Its goal: create a more international campus home to both a more diverse group of scholars and student body, while placing the university on more stable financial footing.

“We are ready to get to work,” Chancellor Linda Katehi said in a news release.

“The 2020 Initiative is a bold but measured path forward for our university, one that will take UC Davis to a level of excellence beyond that achievable with current levels of investment from the state, while sustaining access for deserving California students,” she added.

The initiative seeks to take advantage of UCD’s ample space — its 7,300-acre campus is the largest in the UC system — in a way that will reduce its reliance on state government, which slashed $150 million from UCD’s budget over four years.

A detailed plan for the first phase of implementation is to be unveiled in May.

Growth scenarios under consideration would add an estimated $38 million to $50 million in net revenue to UCD’s current base of $700 million in tuition and state general fund support.

Provost Ralph Hexter said the final revenue figure will depend on the answers to many still unresolved questions.

“This initiative is not a panacea for all of the budget ills that ail the university,” he said, “but among the many possible courses of action available to us to address this crisis, it is perhaps the one that will have the longest-lasting impact.”

Philosophical discussions and logistical challenges lie ahead.

Among them: how best to balance the goals of the initiative with maintaining access for California students; attract, support and house students; and weigh expensive new classrooms versus new uses for existing space, like weekend classes, or teaching classes online.

Still others to contemplate: choosing what needs addressing first, given the pressure on the campus’ academic and physical infrastructure, and between investing in the campus’ traditional strengths versus emerging fields of study.

Campus leaders said the first phase would include “modest” changes, including spending on the hiring of new faculty and staff, strengthening student recruitment and improving student support services and graduate education.

The project leader for the initiative, Ken Burtis, said the initiative will be assessed and revised annually.

“The 2020 Initiative should be seen as a commitment to a goal rather than to a specific plan for the next seven years,” said Burtis, faculty adviser to the chancellor and provost.

Task forces’ report

In a 45-page report completed in November, three faculty, staff and student task forces examined academic resources, enrollment management and facilities supported the initiative.

They wrote that while they rejected “growth at any cost,” they agreed with the initiative’s goals.

They urged campus leaders to address existing deficiencies before moving forward, increase funding for lecturers while new faculty are being hired and have necessary faculty and staff in place before welcoming any major influx of new students.

They also noted opportunities to build strength in new academic areas, rethink ways to improve advising and other support for all undergraduates, create new opportunities for graduate students and add needed classroom space.

“Everyone appreciates that it’s critical that we get it right,” said Rebecca Sterling, president of the Associated Students of UC Davis and a task force member. “As the campus contemplates growth, it must do so with the highest priority being to maintain and enhance the overall quality of the university.”

The task forces mulled five growth scenarios that increased the number of nonresident enrollment by 2,000 to 5,000 students and the proportion of nonresident undergraduates to 13 to 21 percent — in line with targets at UC Berkeley, UC San Diego and UCLA.

Currently, about 23,000 in-state undergraduate students are enrolled at UCD, along with 1,200 total out-of-state and international students.

Campus leaders said that they are committed to maintaining current faculty-to-student ratios.

If the faculty adds 300 professors, the campus should plan on hiring about 400 to 600 support staff, according to the report. The campus now employs about 2,200 faculty members and more than 22,000 staff.

Enrollment strategies

The report urged caution in choosing which of the growth scenarios, or variation on one of them, is followed.

“By enrolling these (out-of-state) and international students, it becomes possible to subsidize access for additional Californians, maintain the quality of a UC education for all, and actually improve the quality of the student experience by creating a truly international learning community at UC Davis,” the report’s authors wrote.

“But there is a price to be paid — every place offered to (a nonresident) student is one less that, were funding available, might potentially by offered to a Californian.”

Members deemed unsustainable the scenario Katehi offered up during her fall 2011 convocation address. It would have increased the nonresident students by 3,000 and California students by 2,000.

That approach would have brought in about $6 million per year —  not enough to help stabilize the university’s budget, the report said.

Two other options included cutting by 2,000 the number of Californians on campus, replacing them after their graduation with nonresidents. Doing so would bring enrollment back into line with the smaller number of students for which the state provides funding.

Most task force members opposed that strategy because it would have the most negative impact on California students.

Of the remaining scenarios, one calls for increasing nonresident students by 4,500 and resident students by 500, for an annual increase in funding of $38 million. The last would up the number of nonresidents by 5,000 without increasing the number of in-state students. It would bring in an estimated $48 million per year.

Task force members stressed that the campus should not waver from strict comparability in admission standards between international and California students and that it should carefully devise a strategy for creating a larger, deeper pool of international applicants.

The campus needs to focus on improving student advising, tracking student success and providing helpful orientation programs, wrote the task forces, noting that English language learning programs are already under stress because of the number of domestic students who need assistance.

UCD has made modest increases in nonresident enrollment of late, but not as part of “2020.” Rather, the campus needed the extra funds to cover a $10 million budget cut in 2010-11.

Community impact

It remains to be seen how the traditionally slow-growth Davis community will respond to what could be a dramatic change on campus.

Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza said most of the discussions to date have been about how the changes would impact the campus. Talks about how to best integrate UCD’s plans with the city will come next, he said.

“The university has been keeping in close contact with all members of the City Council for the last year or more — and city staff — as the planning process has been proceeding on the campus side. We’ve been appreciative of that fact,” Krovoza said.

“(It’s) looking at cultural planning to make sure these students are welcomed into the community, and to continue to build the international nature of Davis,” he added. “And from a planning standpoint, we want to make sure we have a space available for the students and faculty.”

Online: http://chancellor.ucdavis.edu/initiatives/2020_Initiative

— Enterprise staff writer Tom Sakash contributed to this report. Reach Cory Golden at cgolden@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8046. Follow him on Twitter at @cory_golden

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Cory Golden

Cory Golden

The Enterprise's higher-education and congressional reporter. http://about.me/cory_golden
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