Higher Education Feels the Pinch State Budget Deficits, Population Growth Force Schools to Study Limiting Enrollment

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STUNG by recession and a decade of declining federal presence in health, education, and welfare, America's institutions of higher learning are rethinking for the long term:

*In California, the guarantee of a place in public college, university, or community college for every qualified Californian - the foundation of the state's 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education - is on the table for reconsideration.

Hit by soaring enrollment and dwindling budgets, presidents of the nine-campus University of California (UC) system, the 20-campus California State system, and the 107-campus community college network say they cannot accommodate all eligible students, as the plan mandates.

*In Texas, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board - faced with the highest enrollment in state history - last week began appointing representatives from colleges statewide to consider ways of capping attendance.

Faced with fewer dollars and 130,000 more students than in 1985, the new task force will analyze how to consolidate programs, focus on individual campus strengths, and eliminate overlapping course work.

*At the Universities of Michigan, Iowa, and Colorado, cutbacks in state funding this month have goaded long-term moves to reduce course offerings, lay off faculty, increase student fees, or cut programs.

Michigan's Provost's Advisory Committee on Excellence has asked the university's world-renowned medical school to trim its budget 25 percent over four years.

"There are so many other claimants on state monies that universities are just not getting what they've been used to," says Robert Clodius, president of the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges. "The result is a protracted cutting back."

"Throw a dart at a map of the US and you find the same problems in every state, public and private institution alike," adds Robert Rosenzweig, president of the Association of American Universities.

Besides Texas, California, and Florida - where burgeoning immigration exacerbates the complexities of equal access for minorities - states worst hit are Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Virginia, and Oregon.

Though enrollment pressures are greater in the West than the East, observers note that estimated student population increases for 1993 and 1996 will similarly pinch every institution in the country.

"The level of spending that all US institutions enjoyed in the '80s simply cannot be maintained," says Yale spokeswoman Martha Matzke. "This is the beginning of a long-term retrenchment. …