UC Davis is moving to add 5,000 students, many of them from outside California, in a bid to increase revenue and reduce its dependence on volatile state funding.
The plan, unveiled in a speech Wednesday by Chancellor Linda Katehi, is in line with a concerted effort across the University of California system to admit more non-California students to stabilize UC's finances. Nonresidents pay more than twice as much as Californians in tuition and fees.
Katehi's plan would take that strategy a step further. It would swell UC Davis' student population by 15 percent, all in the undergraduate ranks. The school would grow to a total of 37,000 students, making Davis the second-largest campus behind UCLA.
As many as half the additional students could come from outside the state, enabling the expansion to pay for itself, she said in an interview.
"If you come up with an appropriate ratio, you cover your expenditures," she said.
The student mix is far from decided, however, Katehi said, and she insisted Davis will stay true to its core mission of educating Californians.
UC Davis, with thousands of undeveloped acres, has long been seen by the UC Board of Regents as a campus with room for growth. Katehi said the extra 5,000 students could be brought onboard "in five years or so."
Besides bringing more tuition revenue in the door, Katehi said a larger student population would enhance the school's educational mission while making it a more potent economic force in the region. Eventually, the plan is to add another 300 faculty members as well.
Mostly, though, Katehi described the plan as a remedy for the debilitating drop in state support. While the school offered no forecasts, she said bringing in 5,000 more students would generate tens of millions of dollars in additional tuition and fee revenue.
"We can become financially stable," Katehi told a crowd of around 500 gathered at the Mondavi Center for the school's annual convocation. "That way, every time state revenues drop and our budget gets cut, we will not have to reduce programs, furlough faculty or lay off staff and substantially raise tuition."
Besides the tuition hikes at all UC campuses, UC Davis has announced plans to cut up to 194 jobs and is eliminating degrees in applied science, avian science and more.
"Enough is enough," said Katehi, who arrived in Davis two years ago. "We will be in control of our own destiny."
The plan is still sketchy. It lacks plenty of detail, including a budget for constructing dorms and other buildings needed to accommodate the expansion.
Yet Katehi said new construction won't be "as much as you might think." UC Davis has spent more than $1.5 billion since 1999 on construction. The school's West Village on-campus housing development, which just opened, will eventually provide 2,800 more beds.
At the same time, the school has been slashing administrative costs in recent years, making it more economical to expand the student population, Katehi said.
What's unclear is how many of the additional students would be Californians. Right now about 8 percent of UC Davis students are from outside California. But almost 14 percent of this year's freshman class at Davis are out-of-state and international students, significantly higher than last year.
The Board of Regents decided in December to recruit more out-of-staters as a way of coping with budget woes. More than 12 percent of the freshmen systemwide this year are from out of state, up from 8 percent last year.
Californians pay $15,123 in tuition and fees, not including room and board, while non-Californians pay $38,001.
Besides the financial benefit, Katehi, who is from Greece, said adding more non-Californians and international students to the Davis campus would better prepare students for life after college.
A possible hurdle to the expansion is the city of Davis' anti-growth culture. Although the campus isn't in the city and isn't subject to Davis' planning rules, some residents might bristle at a big growth campaign. A group called West Davis Neighbors sued over the West Village project on environmental grounds, but lost.
A leader of West Davis Neighbors, Kim Stanley Robinson, said he isn't opposed to Katehi's announcement. City and Yolo County elected officials joined her at a post-speech news conference to proclaim their support.
"Providing jobs and keeping our community vibrant is important," said Davis Mayor Pro Tem Rochelle Swanson, a UC Davis graduate.