Not that we need more reminders about just how dire the effects of the economic downturn have been for public colleges and universities, but the California State University System has announced that it will reduce enrollment by more than 40,000 students next year. That is happening despite increasing demand.
We all know that 40,000 students is a big number, but thinking about it in terms of other well known institutions emphasizes how dramatic this reduction really is. For example, Penn State University enrollment is just over 40,000 students. Thinking about California turning away roughly the same number of students that currently attend Penn State is a scary thing. And, when you add the 10,000 student reductions Cal State has made in 2009-2010, the total number of student reductions represents roughly the enrollment of the University of Texas-Austin.
This is beyond sad news. And, to quote the Cal State System Chancellor Charles B. Reed, “Denying students access to higher education is just about one of the worst things you can do in a recession. The state needs our graduates to enter the workforce and help the state’s economic recovery.” And, I would add that the country needs those graduates AND California’s recovery as well.
Perhaps the time has come to fundamentally rethink and recreate how states go about the job of making higher education available to their citizens. Preventing more cuts like those announced at Cal State, and coming up with new solutions to fit our challenging times seems to be a responsibility we all share. Just as the “Great Depression” resulted in important and lasting public policy changes some decades ago, perhaps our current economic situation can only be overcome with some bold changes. I am not certain just what those changes might look like, but it seems that change is imperative given the magnitude of the Cal State reductions and the likelihood that other states and systems will be announcing reductions as well.
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Welcome to The Other 85 Percent. So what does "the other 85 percent" refer to? Research has shown that only about 15 percent of higher education students still fit the traditional definition of young adults age 18 to 22 who live on campus and go to school full time. more