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San Diego Universities Look To Expand Amid Growing Student Interest

A rendering shows the North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood, a ...

Credit: UC San Diego

Above: A rendering shows the North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood, a mixed-use community incorporating residential, academic and administrative space, at UC San Diego.

Applications to San Diego State University and UC San Diego are up more than 10 percent in one year. More than 93,000 undergraduate students are crossing their fingers for a spot at SDSU, and 116,000 hope to attend UCSD.

But neither school has the capacity to match — at least not right now.

New student admissions at SDSU have grown just 3.5 percent over the last five years, and even declined slightly between 2016 and 2017. The school is collecting signatures for a ballot initiative to expand on the former Qualcomm Stadium site. The plan would add classroom, research and residential space.

RELATED: SDSU West Backers Press Public For More Signatures

“San Diego State University is one of the nation’s top-10 most sought-after universities, but we are currently landlocked,” said interim President Sally Roush in a statement. “SDSU Mission Valley is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a world-class university campus and research center for the region that will support future growth opportunities.”

Roush did not say how many new students it would serve. Enrollment capacity is determined as much, if not more, by state funding as it is by space. This year, Gov. Jerry Brown added $20 million to the budget to fund a 3,000-student increase across the entire California State University system.

“Future student enrollment will be responsive to student demand and to the level of state funding,” she said. “The availability of appropriate space for quality education will be crucial to any future enrollment growth.”

UC San Diego admissions have grown 8 percent in five years, and the school is working to add 10,000 by 2035, said Chancellor Pradeep Khosla.

"For the last couple of years it has been a bit difficult, primarily in terms of number of classrooms," he said. "I can admit students overnight but I cannot build buildings overnight. But I can tell you, by next year or the year after we will be in really good shape."

The university is repurposing existing space and has begun construction on a five-year plan to add classrooms, dormitories and research facilities within its current footprint.

"We do have space to grow in terms of land," Khosla said. "But what I think is really important and significant is the vision of how we are going to achieve it."

Khosla envisions a predominantly residential campus so students can better afford the cost of living — its dorms will be 20 percent below market rate — and engage more with campus life.

RELATED: UC San Diego Extension Spreads Education Reach To Downtown

Cal State San Marcos to the north is the region’s newest public university and is growing the fastest, at more than 11 percent. Its application data is not yet available.

A growing number of California high school graduates are leaving secondary school with all of the qualifications needed to attend a public university in the state, partially explaining the record number of applications. However, the California Department of Finance projects a decline in high school graduates through 2020 due to demographic shifts, then a leveling out of 0.2 percent annual growth thereafter.

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