With an eye on the state budget and student diversity, Gov. Jerry Brown suggested Wednesday that the University of California consider decreasing freshmen enrollment in favor of more community college transfers.
Speaking at the UC Board of Regents meeting in Sacramento, Brown said that raising the proportion of transfer students would be "a way to maintain a high degree of quality, increase diversity and lower our cost structure. That would be my value proposition."
His comments followed the presentation of a report recommending how UC could strengthen its transfer pathways, including aligning its majors with the Associate Degree for Transfer program being implemented between the community college system and the California State University system.
Brown theorized that having more students complete part of their educations in the lower-cost community colleges would save money for the state. He asked the regents to seriously "rethink through here what is the role of the freshman and sophomore year. Where should that take place?"
Brown added that expanding transfer enrollment should come in conjunction with outreach to a broader swath of community college students across the state. Currently, more than half of the approximately 15,000 students who transfer to UC every year come from fewer than a quarter of California's community colleges.
"To increase diversity is crucial," Brown said. "To make sure that lower-income families have their shot at UC and to really maximize that potential, the number of transfers must be increased."
Outside of the event, several dozen student protesters from Fossil Free UC called upon the regents to divest the university's endowment funds from coal, oil and natural gas companies.
"As an environmental movement, we have to call out institutional drivers of climate change," said UC Berkeley freshman Jake Soiffer, who helped organize the rally. "We can't just act individually."
"This is really the issue of our generation," he added.
During the public comment period that opened the board meeting, students asked the regents to look into divestment over the summer and hold in September. They urged UC to follow the example of universities like Stanford, which announced plans to divest from coal last week.
When the public comment period ended before all the speakers were able to address the board, the demonstrators began chanting until they were granted more time, drawing the ire of some of the regents.
Later in the meeting, Regent Norman Pattiz acknowledged the student's concerns, calling their request "valid."
"Although I think they have a little bit of work to do on their method of presentation," he said, "I don't think there is a bigger problem facing humanity than climate change."
"I would encourage us to find ways within the university community," he added, "to deal with these kind of problems, which are monumental in scope."
PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown talks with UC President Mark Yudof during a UC regents' meeting on May 15, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua