A couple of years ago, the UCSC Chancellor convened a Community Advisory Group to advise about UCSC growth plans. The Group adopted a goal of “a binding commitment to housing 100 percent of net new on-campus student enrollment.”
Recently, UCSC published its Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for campus growth. The DEIR makes no legally binding commitment to house new students or staff. Instead, the DEIR states a goal for housing 100% of new students and up to 25% of new staff, with no consequences, such as freezing enrollment, should the goal not be reached. Community members understand what happens to lofty goals that are not enforceable. The campus growth plan of 1988 set a goal of housing 70% of undergraduates on campus. Over the years, UCSC’s record of housing students on campus has stayed around 50%.
Growing enrollment to 28,000 students means an even tighter housing market, stressing students and existing community members. Traffic will increase as more people travel longer distances to commute to where housing is less expensive. And according to student voices, a larger population will diminish the educational experience. Mindful of the many impacts of growth, 77% of Santa Cruz voters approved Measure U in 2018, which read: “There shall be no additional enrollment growth at UCSC beyond the 19,500 students allowed by the current 2005 LRDP.”
UCSC’s DEIR rejects the alternative of distributing enrollment at other campuses or a new campus on 500 acres of UC land at Fort Ord: “The addition of another UC campus to the UC system is not considered feasible at this time, given State fiscal constraints.” Yet somehow the DEIR doesn’t find any fiscal constraint to the building of an additional 5.6 million square feet of building space on the UCSC campus. That’s 1.5 times the building space that currently exists.
The UC enrollment growth projections are puzzling given the latest projections of declining high school graduation rates conducted by the Western Insterstate Commission for Higher Education. California’s high school graduation rates are expected to peak in 2024 followed by a steady decline. By 2026, the number of high school graduates will be lower than the number who graduated in 2019.
We need our City and County to be ready to take legal action if UCSC continues to proceed without addressing community concerns.
Rick Longinotti | Co-chair, Campaign for Sustainable Transportation
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