UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland told the UC Board of Regents on Wednesday that accommodating growth at the Merced campus will require a new approach including office space for some staff off-campus, possibly in downtown Merced.
Leland said UC Merced would need to make use of public-private partnerships as well.
She made her pitch to the regents because the changes in approach would require amending the long-range development plan for UC Merced, which requires their approval.
The recession created a scarcity of funds for more facilities at the university, Leland told the regents. "We are now in a position at UC Merced where the lack of facilities is altering our growth," she said.
"We've grown on the average of 750-plus students every single year, and now we are having to downsize to plus-300 students," Leland said. "And unless we can get some facilities on line in the next three years, we could actually flatline in our ability to accommodate more students at UC Merced."
Leland said the plan she outlined Wednesday is designed to move the campus toward meeting its goal of accommodating 10,000 students by 2020.
Twofold strategy for growth
UC Merced worked with consultants from the Urban Land Institute to find the most cost-effective way for the university to continue to expand, given the state's financial challenges.
"The strategy that we hope to pursue is twofold," Leland told the regents. "We want to build the physical capacity to grow to approximately 10,000 students by focusing on the land that we have now."
That means the campus would continue to build within the "golf-course footprint," which consists of 104 acres. By doing that, the university will save millions because it won't have to expand infrastructure, she said.
For example, Leland said the university would be able to build on space currently occupied by parking lots and those lots would be moved to other parts of the campus
"The second strategy is to consolidate administrative support and outreach functions in a single location, preferably in downtown Merced," she said.
People who are working off-campus and more administrative staff who are on-campus would be moved to a single location, she said.
"They are spread all over and that costs us more money than it should because it increases our transportation and our public safety costs," she told the Sun-Star. "So the idea is to bring them all together."
Any UC Merced employee who is not a faculty member and who is not directly involved in supporting faculty and students, would be a candidate for relocation to an off-campus site, Leland said.
UC Merced officials will seek the necessary approval of an amendment to the campus' long-range development plan at the next regents meeting, Leland said.
The campus' goal, part of its 2009 long-range development plan, is to reach an enrollment of 10,000 within eight to 10 years. That plan calls for growth to 25,000 students and campus development of 810 acres.
Proposal called 'very viable'
Leland, who has been working with officials at the UC Office of the President, said this is "a new model for how the University of California and its campuses can do business together."
Regent Fred Ruiz, chairman of the Committee on Grounds and Buildings, thanked Leland for coming up with an alternative plan.
"This is unique, but I think it's very viable," he said. "I'm hoping that your success will help other campuses to explore this opportunity, public-private partnerships. I like it. I'm excited about moving forward."
UC President Mark Yudof said with the state's challenges to provide funding for more facilities at UC Merced and the overwhelming need, given the enrollment demand, the campus has taken a taken a distinctive approach.
"They have taken a unique opportunity, quite frankly, in taking a look at something that we may at some point be able to expand to other campuses in the public-private partnership venture," he said.
Leland said she was pleased with the regents' continued support of UC Merced. "We are already way over capacity in our space area," she said.
In fact, buildings being constructed now -- Science and Engineering Building 2, expected to be completed in 2014; the Student Services Building, expected to be completed this, and the fourth phase of on-campus housing, also expected to be completed this year -- will be full when their doors open, Leland said.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or firstname.lastname@example.org.