This post was updated Feb. 3 at 10:08 a.m.
Another year, another case of overenrollment.
And University of California administrators seem to be perfectly fine with it.
The UC Office of the President said in a press release Jan. 21 the number of undergraduates enrolled in UC schools increased by 1.7% last fall, with the UC enrolling 4,968 more students, 3,632 of whom are undergraduates.
More specifically, the University enrolled an additional 2,614 California undergraduates, resulting in a total of 185,559 in-state students at UC schools – the fourth consecutive in-state enrollment increase in four years.
UC President Janet Napolitano said in the press release that expanding the number of enrolled in-state undergraduates will allow for greater academic opportunities and access to education for the next generation of California students.
But for students already enrolled, a UC education has felt anything but accessible lately.
It’s no secret that overenrollment has created a budding fire of severe logistical issues across the UC. Meanwhile, the UC has worked to increase in-state student enrollment for years.
Now, it’s up to administrators to square those issues.
The UC’s increased in-state enrollment efforts are valuable, but they will only serve to help students if they are implemented in tandem with curbing overenrollment. And while the University should continue to enroll a higher proportion of in-state students, they must do so in the context of decreased overall enrollment rates. Educating California students is an investment in the state, but that investment is only effective if students are provided a quality education.
And that’s not currently the case.
According to the UC Undergraduate Experience Survey, 21% of students were somewhat dissatisfied to very dissatisfied with their academic experiences as of 2018. Unsurprisingly, students cited difficulty getting their choice of major and dissatisfaction with large class sizes.
Bruins know the realities of overcrowding all too well. UCLA Counseling and Psychological Services remains overbooked and unavailable for most students. Class spots are bought and sold through Facebook groups because of small class sizes and competitive enrollment times.
So while the in-state enrollment increases, problems stemming from overpacked campuses will continue to greet new students on the ground level.
Granted, decreasing enrollment and increasing the proportion of in-state students is no easy task, ideologically or logistically.
The difficult reality is that increasing the number of enrolled in-state undergraduates can often feel like limiting opportunities for out-of-state and international students. Doing so would arguably compromise the diversity of geographical backgrounds and foster more homogenous student bodies across the nine UC campuses.
But the UC has a responsibility to provide accessibility for its California residents as well. As an institution largely funded by state taxpayer dollars, that investment should ultimately support the education and occupation of those paying for the UC.
Decreasing enrollment across the board means less accessibility in the short term. But it also means a higher quality education for all students down the road.
Whenever enrollment rates increase, the UC is playing a dangerous – if well-intentioned – game.
And if those numbers keep climbing, the number of dissatisfied students will surely follow their lead.