Claiming the university has violated an 11-year-old agreement to steadily reduce its student population, city officials reacted angrily at the high enrollment figures released Monday for fall semester enrollment at UC Berkeley.
“I’ve been yelling about this for the last year,” Mayor Shirley Dean said. “I’ve referred this matter to the city attorney to see what kind of teeth are in that agreement.”
Dean and two other councilmembers said Berkeley, already suffering from a housing shortage and clogged roadways, is ill prepared to handle more students and administrative staff required to support them.
As part of the university’s 1990 Long Range Development Plan, the UC Regents signed an agreement with the city, which outlined a strategy to steadily decrease enrollment by 1,126 students by 2006. The agreement also included an enrollment cap of 31,200 students averaged over the fall and spring semesters.
On Monday, the university Public Affairs Office announced that more than 32,000 students were enrolled for the fall semester, nearly 1,000 more than the agreed-upon cap.
University officials said the fall numbers are only preliminary and won’t become official until spring enrollment numbers are available. In addition, the enrollment figures for the fall semester include 600 students studying abroad or in Washington, D.C.
Director of Public Relations Irene Hegarty said college enrollment has grown dramatically along with the state’s population, and colleges have a responsibility to provide an education to as many state residents as possible.
The University of California Office of the President estimates that by 2010, the full-time UC student population will increase by 60,000, or 43 percent more than are currently enrolled. (Statewide college enrollment is expected to increase by 700,000 overall). Hegarty said the state has asked UC Berkeley to absorb 4,000 of the anticipated increase in students, which has been dubbed “Tidal Wave II.”
She added that in light of Tidal Wave II, the 1990 agreement to reduce student enrollment simply “won’t be happening.”
“These are our kids that need an college education, we can’t just turn them away,” she said.
Dean agreed it is critical to make a college education available to as many people as possible, but said the quality of the education is important too.
“How are you going to give ‘our kids’ a good education when they are crammed into overcrowded classrooms with poor student to teacher ratios?” Dean said. “Not to mention the impact on the quality of life from continuing to shoehorn people into a nine-square mile city that’s already overcrowded.”
Josh Fryday, the vice president of external affairs for the Associated Students of the University of California said that quality of life issues resulting from enrollment growth are a “serious concern.”
“We need to find some solutions to the problems of housing and transportation that students are facing already,” he said. “If student enrollment is going to continue to grow we have to work together to ensure the quality of life is not diminished further.”
Hegarty said the university is in the process of developing housing that will include 1,000 new beds in the south-of-campus area. “Those units are either under construction or in the planning stages,” she said.
But Councilmember Kriss Worthington said the 1,000 beds is “woefully” short of what the university agreed to build in 1990. “We had a housing shortage (in 1990) and the university agreed in writing to build 4,500 new units in the Long Range Plan,” he said. “Adding so many students is going to exacerbate an already critical housing shortage that the university has been so far unwilling to deal with.”
Councilmember Armstrong said she is worried about the cultural impact enrollment growth will have on the city. As students are squeezed into Berkeley, artists and workers are increasingly squeezed out.
“Little by little the city is turning into a university,” she said. “Pretty soon it will be made up of rich people living in houses and students in apartments and that will have a huge impact on the social diversity of Berkeley.”
Assistant City Attorney Zack Cowen said an outside attorney is reviewing the 1990 agreement to determine if the city’s rights have been violated. He said the consulting attorney’s report is due back sometime next year.
Hegarty said the university’s Long Range Development Plan is currently being updated and a new Environmental Impact Report will be required. She added there will be many opportunities for public input on the plan in the coming months.