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
About the National Center

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Page 9 of 15

Updated Projections

CPEC has not completed a new set of projections but is currently planning to revamp its projections in 1999. At that time, CPEC will consider adopting a less resource-intensive methodology, which would allow the commission to publish revisions every year or two. The segments update their projections (unofficially, at least) to reflect the latest revisions from the Department of Finance Demographic Research Unit (DRU).

DRU, which is mandated to "analyze and prepare projections of enrollments in public schools, colleges or universities," provides the official state projections used for annual budgetary and capital outlay expenditure patterns. Each year, the unit updates its ten-year projections of enrollments for each of the three segments of public higher education.

The centerpiece of the DRU projections is the cohort of graduates in any given year. Graduation data and projections are updated annually. Transfer rates are calculated from rates developed from the cohort's relationship to population by enrollment level (i.e., freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors), age group and gender. Historical rates are analyzed, projected and applied to the projected population to calculate future numbers of transfer students. DRU limits the population studied to those age groupings (in five-year increments) that are most likely to attend the higher education segments. The range differs by segment: for the community colleges the range extends from under 19 through age 64; for undergraduates at UC and CSU, from 24 and younger up to 49; and for graduates, from 24 to 59. Long-term rates are generally projected by extending historical rates or by calculating an average of historical rates. Choice of rates is based upon the strength of the trends and upon what is known about future conditions affecting rates. Each year, DRU derives several projections using the most recent, the highest, and the lowest rates over the past ten years. The range of these projections provides a context for evaluating the official enrollment projection. The "art" of enrollment projections lies in the selection of the alternatives. Department staff members argue that applying their experience and judgement about the appropriate weight given to each of the "trends" is an important part of their methodology. This method, they claim, is preferable to selecting a single set of assumptions that would not reflect as accurately the likelihood that the trends would continue.


Table 2: Click for larger image

Table 3 compares DRU's 1994 and 1997 projections. The 1997 estimates reflect a modest increase over the unit's own 1994 projections, and over CPEC's 1994 projections. Whereas CPEC's 1994 baseline figures projected a total increase in public higher education enrollment to be about 488,000 from 1994-95 to 2005-06, DRU's 1997 series projects an increase of about 538,000 students over the same period.

In fall 1996, California's total postsecondary enrollment rose 4.7 percent, reversing a four-year decline. Enrollments continued to increase in fall 1997 but at a lower rate. The principal assumptions that drive DRU's projections include:

Community Colleges
The 1997 Department of Finance projections assume that participation rates over the next 10 years: will increase for community college students ages 19 and under; will remain the same for those ages 20 to 29; and will increase modestly for those older than 29. These estimates reflect the recent growth in numbers of first-time freshmen in the community colleges.7 First-time freshmen are more likely to be full-time students and more likely to be enrolled in credit courses.

California State University
The Department of Finance projects gradually increasing transfer rates for CSU juniors over the ten-year period, reflecting the increased absolute number and participation rates of community college students who are expected to enroll in the community colleges right out of high school. The transfer rate among these younger students is expected to be higher than among older students. Assumptions about transfer rates take on growing importance since more than four of every five transfer students in CSU come from community colleges.8 Well over half (55.7%) of all CSU graduates are community college transfers.9

University of California
Participation rates at UC declined from 1986 to 1993 but have risen since and are now expected by the Department of Finance to rise to the average rates of the last decade.10 Transfer rates are expected to increase for juniors but at about half the rate of growth experienced in the last decade.11 Transfers have become a more important part of the university's enrollment pattern; almost one in three UC graduates is a community college transfer.12 Significantly larger numbers of Asian-Americans have opted for the transfer route; Asian-American transfers are up 145% since 1989-90. Latino transfers to the university have increased 71% over the same period.13

In sum, the following conditions account for most of the recent changes in the enrollment projections: a growing high school cohort; the bottoming out of the decline in the 18 to 24 year old cohort; increasing participation rates; and increasing transfer rates. The baseline 1994 projections by CPEC are very close to actual enrollment. In fact, CPEC's projections were slightly conservative in projecting enrollments for each of the segments and for higher education generally. Department of Finance projections, which in 1994 were very close to the CPEC baseline projections for 2005-06, have now been increased by over 71,000 students for all three segments, bringing the total enrolled to 2,276,886, a figure that is about 65,000 higher than the total number projected by CPEC÷a modest but not insignificant alteration.


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