No Flood of Housing Accompanies UC's Student Tidal Wave
The University of California is preparing for a tidal wave of new student enrollment in the next decade, and the question of where students will be housed is one that the university continues to grapple with.
Under a systemwide increase now underway, the University of California expects to add 60,000 students to its nine-campus system by 2010. UC Merced, the system's tenth campus, is expected to open in 2004 as home to 4,000 additional students. This enrollment growth, driven by the state's population surge, places even more stress on a student housing system that is already overloaded.
For years, individual campuses have struggled to add housing, often facing criticism from local jurisdictions over their methods. In January, for example, UC Santa Cruz leased a Holiday Inn for 10 years to provide student and staff residences, depriving the City of Santa Cruz of $500,000 in annual transient occupancy tax revenue. The University system has also faced opposition over environmental issues from communities that did not want to grow, as has occurred in recent years over proposed housing at UC Santa Barbara.
Taxpayers are not expected to finance UC housing under current state policy, according to UC spokesman Chuck McFadden. "The university does understand there is a serious problem in providing student housing," he said. "It is particularly tough at UC Berkeley and UCLA," which have the largest enrollments of the UC campuses.
All campuses, McFadden said, have to be aware of their relationships with local communities, many of which do not want the campuses to grow further, and which expect universities to honor long-range development plans that limit university development.
In a shift toward finding systemwide solutions, a 20-member task force was appointed this year to look at ways to make housing more available for students, senior staff members and faculty. Chaired by UC Senior Vice President Joseph Mullinix, the committee began meeting in May and is expected to produce recommendations by the end of the year. The task force is made up primarily of UC students, faculty, UC administrators and campus administrators.
Mullinix has asked the task force to study ways the university can work with third parties more frequently to provide housing, and to provide financial assistance to those who purchase houses. McFadden and Sam Morabito, a UCLA associate vice chancellor who sits on the task force, said it is too early to tell what recommendations the task force will come up with. But Morabito said he did not think a statewide bond measure would be a viable option for funding.
Rates of growth by 2010 will vary by campus, with some of the smaller campuses taking on substantially more students than larger ones. UCLA, which currently has about 36,000 students, is expected to grow by 4,000 students during the next decade. In contrast, UC San Diego's student body of 20,000 is expected to increase by 50% during that period.
During the past 15 years UCLA has been transforming the school from a predominantly commuter school to one where most students live on campus or nearby. The school has met its goal of getting 50% of the student population either to live on campus or to live within walking distance, Morabito said. UCLA is located in one of Los Angeles's most expensive areas, and new housing construction is limited.
UC San Diego, in contrast, benefits from an abundance of rental housing within five miles of its campus. "Compare this to UCSB, UCSC, UCB and even UCLA where the market is completely gone," said Dolores Davies, a spokeswoman at UC San Diego. And while UCSD prepares to build more housing (a 1,240-bed dorm expansion is due to open in 2003, with apartments planned at later date), Davies noted there have been swings in the market before. "As late as 1993, we had vacancies in our residence halls," she said.
More students usually means more traffic. At UCLA, the school has a transportation agreement with the City of Los Angeles that caps the number of trips into the campus, according to Morabito. The school is meeting the agreement with vanpools and carpools, and by encouraging public transportation ridership.
At UC Berkeley, the administration is seeking innovative ways to meet UC's mandated increase in student population while still honoring a 1989 agreement with the City of Berkeley to cap enrollment, according to Dennis Hengstler, executive director of planning and analysis at UC Berkeley. The city has a love-hate relationship with the university: It loves the school but hates the impacts.
Under an agreed-upon system UC Berkeley uses to count students, there were 29,979 students on campus during the 2000-2001 school year. But under the 1989 agreement, the student population is supposed to decrease to 29,450 students in the 2005-2006 school year.
At the same time, UC guidelines call for the school to grow from 27,000 students in 1998 to 31,800 in 2010.
One way to accommodate more students is to promote the education abroad program, which allows students to study in other countries. Also, under the pending state budget, the UC system would receive up to $54 million to pay for summer school programs at UC Berkeley, UCLA and UCSB, Hengstler said. Summer school has always been self-supporting, with students paying higher academic fees. But if the state money is allocated, the cost of summer school would go down, and more students are expected to attend. Those students who attend summer school would then be counted towards each campus' enrollment growth, he explained. Traditionally, more housing is available on and near UC campuses during the summer, as many students leave town.
UC Berkeley does continue to work on new housing projects, Hengstler noted. But like the area near UCLA, there is little available land. And land use changes in Berkeley are frequently resisted by students and local residents.
Many of the UC officials interviewed said their highest priority is to provide housing to any entering freshman or transfer student to ease the transition into university life. However, many entering students decline university offers for housing. UC San Diego, for example, housed 33.9% of its undergraduate and graduate students last fall, which placed it second in the UC system. UC Santa Cruz was the leader, housing 47% of its student population.
Chuck McFadden, spokesman for University of California (510) 987-9193.
Dolores Davies, senior communications officer, UC San Diego, (858) 534-5120.
Sam Morabito, associate vice chancellor, Business and Finance Services, UCLA
Dennis Hengstler, executive director of planning and analysis, UC Berkeley,