The University of California is a public university. We are the University of California, that is to say, the UC represents a very important piece of the State’s education system and an integral part of its Master Plan for Higher Education. That plan is drawn up by the State, and it says that our public universities must serve the top 12 percent, of high school graduates and transfer students. It is the duty of the UC to serve those people.
Problem is, those people keep growing. In fact, the number of UC-eligible students is going to grow from 37 to 44 million over the next 20 years. Which, as any mathematician worth his salt will tell you, means that the top 12 percent of high school graduates is going to grow as well.
According to a Contra Costa Times report from earlier this fall, the University of California is already educating 50 percent more students this year than it was a decade ago.
The University’s decision to grow by up to 4,500 more students over the next 15 years represents a decision that is being made in the face of a very clear economic problem.
The University attempted two years ago to open a new campus in Merced. In its first year, UC Merced accepted 875 students-700 of whom were freshmen. This year, 500 students decided to go to UC Merced, a drop off of over 300 students. The original plan of the university entailed growing by at least 600 students per year until enrollment reached 25,000. But of course, Merced is currently headed in the wrong direction. Attracting students to new universities with little or no reputation for programs or majors is clearly more difficult that accepting students into existing universities.
Opponents of the UC’s decision to grow seem to protest the idea on the notion that the campus’s growth will negatively affect its surrounding community.
However, according to the City of Santa Cruz’s Strategic Economic Devolopment Strategy study conducted in 2003, UC Santa Cruz represents the greatest financial asset the city has.
As it says in the report, "The university’s presence in Santa Cruz creates three key benefits that have implications for future economic development in Santa Cruz, including: (1) the University as the City’s largest employer; (2) the resulting direct and indirect spending by employees and students within the local economy; and (3) the potential for private sector investment in new technology resulting from growing levels of federally-funded and state-funded academic research in a wide variety of scientific endeavors."
UCSC employs over 4,000 people, 10 times more than the next largest employer, Plantronics, and nearly five times more than the next three employers-the Boardwalk, Community Bridges, and Costco-put together.
UCSC students, staff, and faculty spend $608 million per year within the city. Between university spending and staff and student spending, the Santa Cruz local economy receives close to a billion dollars every year because of UCSC.
The bottom line is that the City of Santa Cruz is totally reliant on the spending and the jobs that UCSC creates. To suggest that the university should not grow because it will strain the local infrastructure seems to forget the fact that the university, almost singlehandedly, creates the revenue and tax dollars that are used to build the city infrastructure in the first place.
The university has an obligation to the state to grow, and for the people of Santa Cruz to claim that their town is more exceptional than Berkeley or Davis or Los Angeles or Santa Barbara, that it should be left untouched, ignores the needs of the state. We must give as many people as we can a chance for a higher education, and for that to happen, we have to accept those people with open arms.