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Fueling California's Prosperity

Atkinson Outlines UC's Future Role In Sustaining State's Economy

Posted March 15, 2000

Some 700,000 additional students will enroll at California's colleges and universities in the next decade, placing enormous demands on the institutions that have helped fuel the state's recent prosperity, UC President Richard Atkinson said in remarks at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco March 8.

The California of the next decade simply will not work if these students don't have the education they need to go wherever their talents and opportunities lead them, Atkinson said. California's booming "new economy," he noted, owes much of its success to the innovations that flow from research universities, and those institutions will continue to occupy center stage in the years to come.

"The California of the 21st century is headed for change," he said. "It's going to be bigger, more diverse, and more dependent on the creation of knowledge to keep its economy productive. The University of California is critical to our society's ability to ensure that the forces of demographics, intellectual discovery and economic productivity work in its favor and not against it."

Student enrollment is growing as California's diverse population and prosperous economy grow.

In the 1950s and 1960s, an original "Tidal Wave" of students hit California as the baby-boom generation entered the state's colleges and universities. "Tidal Wave II" is emerging as the children of those baby boomers are expected to attend California's university and college campuses within the next decade.

By 2010, the University of California's general-campus enrollment will grow approximately 40 percent to 210,000 students by 2010, matching UC's total enrollment growth over the past 30 years. At the same time, the university must also hire 3,000 additional faculty.

To accommodate its share of the coming surge of students and to ensure a diverse student body, Atkinson outlined a number of strategies, including the opening of UC Merced, the system's 10th campus; regular-session growth at established campuses; expanded summer sessions; expanded programs using off-campus centers, education abroad and distance learning; and initiatives to improve K-12 education and encourage outstanding teaching, which Atkinson called the "guarantee of long-term progress" in increasing diversity on UC campuses.

On the role of intellectual discovery and its implications for economic growth, Atkinson noted that UC's research in agricultural, biomedical technologies, computer and information sciences, and other fields has played a major role in California's current record prosperity.

"We have made a deliberate effort at UC to improve technology transfer and work more closely with industry to transform basic research into useful products," Atkinson said.

As a measure of technology transfer, UC generates more patents than any other U.S. university. Its Industry-University Cooperative Research program has invested more than $100 million in the past three years for new research, including the BioSTAR project and the Digital Media Innovation Program, which aim to keep California at the forefront of the highly competitive biotechnology and multimedia industries.

These efforts will be complemented by the governor's proposed Institutes for Science and Innovation and support for expanded science and engineering enrollments in the coming decade.

"These research partnerships are an appropriate and productive extension of our land-grant mission," Atkinson said.

"California is entering the new century with a booming economy," he concluded. "This gives us a tremendous strategic advantage in dealing with the powerful demographic and economic forces ahead of us. We have the opportunity to make the next decade one of the most productive ever, not just for higher education but for California."



March 15-21, 2000 (Volume 28, Number 25)
Copyright 2000, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the
Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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