Cali Colleges Worry About Falling Enrollment, Public Unis Not Concerned

College enrollment numbers in California's higher education system could fall victim to the increasing price of a degree along with lower incomes of families the system serves — concerns expressed by the higher education officials in a survey conducted by the accounting firm KPMG.

According to Libby Rainey of The Daily Californian, administrators of 37 out of 103 colleges and universities that took part on the survey said that they were "very concerned." They worry that if the prices rise any higher, maintaining the current enrollment level, which is vital to keeping the schools adequately funded, will prove to be a real challenge. On the same survey a year ago, only 23% expressed a similar level of concern.

UC officials, however, say the UC system is not among those institutions counting student applications with anxiety.

While the number of enrolled undergraduates at UC campuses changes slightly each year, many campuses recently have seen an increase in enrollment. The system as a whole increased enrollment by 1 percent from 2011 to 2012, according to a UC report.

Although UC made its lack of worry public, which of the schools feel differently might never be known. A spokesperson for KPMG said that privacy rules prevent the firm from revealing the names of the schools that took part in the poll, but noted that the results include responses from officials from 62 private universities and 41 public ones.

Anne MacLachlan, a senior researcher from UC Berkeley Center for Studies in Higher Education, thinks that is unfortunate. As it stands, the lack of specificity makes the KPMG results singularly unhelpful in further research or policy measures on the topic.

She said declining enrollment in higher education is a worry that probably is confined to small, obscure private colleges. She said well-known universities such as UC Berkeley do not have a problem maintaining enrollment, despite a tenuous financial climate.

"I think the survey's claim is outrageous," MacLachlan said. "All of the good universities have plenty of applications. And even those we are inclined to see as not as high as us, such as the CSUs, can't admit all those they want to because of budget cuts. So many people are applying."

UC's Dianne Klein echoed that sentiment, saying that if there's really an enrollment crisis in California colleges and universities, public campuses are not seeing the impact. The number of UC applications continue to outstrip the number of available places and will likely do so for years to come.

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