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Knowledge From the Field

Defunding Higher Education: What Are the Effects on College Enrollment?

Published: May 2012

Publisher(s): Public Policy Institute of California

Author(s): Johnson, Hans P.

Funder(s): Donald Bren Foundation, James Irvine Foundation

View Report (20 pages; 2.11MB; PDF)

Area of Focus: College and Career Preparation


California’s budget crises have dramatically reduced state support for higher education. This report examines the effects of the state’s higher education spending cuts on enrollment rates of recent high school graduates at the University of California (UC), California State University (CSU), and the California Community Colleges systems.

Key Findings and/or Recommendations

=Enrollment rates at UC and CSU fell over the past five years from about 22 percent of all high school graduates to below 18 percent.

=Among the state’s most highly prepared high school graduates, the enrollment rate declined even further—from around 67 percent to 55 percent.

=Many opted for overcrowded community colleges, but increases in enrollment rates there did not make up for the declines at UC and CSU.

=Colleges and universities have responded with tuition increases, cuts to per-student spending, and enrollment reductions.

Focus: California

Subjects/Keywords: Community College; Enrollment; Higher Education; Tuition; University

+ Successful strategy
= Observation
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