When UC Merced first opened its doors in 2005, campus enrollment was just 875 students. Now a decade later, over 6,000 students attend the newest University of California campus, and thousands more are being turned away. As the only UC campus in the San Joaquin Valley, campus leaders hope to expand the number of available slots to over 10,000 by the year 2020 to meet growing demand.
There’s one problem though, the campus doesn't have enough space to put all of those people. In order to accommodate the growing student body, campus officials say they need to double the size of current campus facilities, adding an extra 1 million square feet. And in an era of new budgetary priorities in Sacramento, getting the money to pay for such an expansion is proving to be difficult.
That’s why UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland is pitching an innovative strategy to fund the expansion. She wants the private sector to finance, design, build and even operate the new buildings, and lease them to the campus, which will pay for them over time. She says it will save the campus money, and complete the project faster than traditional methods. She joined us on Valley Edition to talk about the new campus expansion, a new $45 million administrative center that is underway in downtown Merced, and a new small business accelerator.