Executive Summary
California: The Changing Context
Tidal Wave II Revisited
The Original Projections
The 1994 Projections vs.Today's Reality
Accounting for the Growth
Updated Projections
How the Cohorts Have Changed
Is This a Tidal Wave?
Improving Projections
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Executive Summary

Several important findings emerge from this update concerning enrollment projections for public higher education in California:

First and most importantly, California's remarkable economic recovery has allowed the state to fund higher education enrollment growth at a rate that has surpassed many of the projections extant in 1995. Actual enrollment levels through 1997 increased at a pace slightly higher than anticipated. The projections originally selected by the panel - the 1994 baseline undergraduate enrollment projections made by the California Postsecondary Education Commission (CPEC - are slightly below actual enrollment levels through 1997. The CPEC figures, however, are closer to the actual figures than are the other projections available in 1995.

Secondly, recent projections made by the Department of Finance and the higher education segments are now much more consistent with CPEC's baseline projections than the department's and the segments' estimates were three years ago. Moreover, the new estimates are higher than CPEC's 1994 baseline figures. The Department of Finance, in updating its projections in 1997, now estimates the total increase in enrollments in public higher education to be about 538,000 from 1994-95 to 2005-06. In 1994 CPEC estimated the total increase to be about 488,000 students. UC projections similarly show a growth rate that is close to, but slightly higher than the CPEC 1994 baseline projections. The community colleges' latest projections have also drawn closer to CPEC's 1994 figures, though the colleges' estimates are still higher by about 73,000 students. CSU has not updated its projections. CPEC is expected to update its projections and reconsider its methodology in 1999.
The actual increases in enrollment during the past few years and the recent projections of an enrollment surge of 538,000 students by 2005-06 have implications of tidal wave proportions. Enrolling so many new students in a state that is unlikely to build large numbers of new campuses is a formidable task that will require significant state planning and support, increased segmental efficiencies and productivity, and increased contributions from parents and students. If these additional students are not provided the opportunity to enroll, then the Master Plan's commitment to educational opportunity will no longer to be a reality.
A recent report by the Legislative Analyst's Office and this re-examination of state higher education enrollment have reaffirmed the panel's original findings that differences in enrollment projections are largely driven by the underlying assumptions made by those creating the projections. As a result, enrollment projections are sometimes less an indicator of expected student demand than they are a method of controlling enrollment changes and examining the availability of access in California higher education. The major differences between the UC and CPEC enrollment projections three years ago involved assumptions about participation rates and the pool of high school students. Participation rates in the university have in fact improved steadily since bottoming out in 1993. The decline in the numbers of high school graduates has also bottomed out.

Finally, this re-examination of enrollment projections has reconfirmed the panel's earlier finding that segmental policies have a significant influence on enrollment patterns for the other segments, and have an immense effect on perceived levels of student demand.


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