The University of California is engaged in an effort to recruit graduate students to sustain and improve the University’s standing as a leading research institution in the United States.

The UC Commission on the Growth and Support of Graduate Education announced at the January regents’ meeting in Los Angeles that the UC needs to enlarge its graduate enrollment by 11,000, a 50 percent increase, by 2010. The commission found that a 50 percent increase in funding, approximately $215 million, would be necessary to support the expanded number of students.

The commission, appointed last year by UC President Richard Atkinson and Regent S. Sue Johnson, found that increased enrollment of graduate students is necessary to remain competitive as a research institution.

“We live in a knowledge-based economy where the capacity to innovate goes right back to graduate education,” Johnson said.

As one of only five states with a decline in graduate enrollment over the last decade, California is losing prospective students to states that can offer more affordable tuition and housing.

“We have to create a very strong recruitment package to get these top students,” Johnson said. “The lack of interest is not in the University or professors, but in Sacramento.”

A number of states waive tuition for teaching assistants and students otherwise employed by a university, an incentive the UC cannot afford due to a lack of political desire to provide the requisite funding, said Dr. Charles Li, a commission member and dean of the Graduate Division at UCSB.

“Most residents in this state do not understand how important graduate education is,” he said.

Despite the statewide decline in graduate enrollment, UCSB has seen a steady increase in graduate students, from 2,236 in the 1997-98 school year to 2,649 in 2001-02.

“We have a substantial applicant pool for all our programs,” Gevirtz Graduate School of Education Chair Chuck Bazerman said.

Though positive, local graduate numbers remain insufficient for the state and UCSB is aiming at increasing enrollment by 15 percent. Graduate program expansion adds to a university’s integrity because its reputation depends largely on graduate research, Li said.

“Colleges without research do not get heard of,” he said.

The UC will be employing outreach programs that vary by department to attract more graduate students, UCSB Director of Graduate Outreach and Admissions Mike Meraz said.

“We are always looking to find new ways to attract good students,” Bazerman said. “We have an active recruitment program seeking minority and highest-ranking students.”