After more than three years of steadfastly denying the increased enrollment of foreign and out-of-state students could endanger the very California identity of the University of California, it’s stunning and encouraging to see the 10-campus system do an about face.
The switch came late last month, when UC regents voted overwhelmingly for a plan to increase in-state enrollment at the elite university system by 10,000 in-staters before the 2018-19 school year. The increase will come in increments of 5,000 next fall and 2,500 students each of the next two academic years.
Approval of this change proposed by university President Janet Napolitano was a tacit admission that critics who wondered whether UC’s character might be permanently altered could be right. There’s no doubt about the big changes that have occurred or about the financial difficulties behind them.
Where the university had only about 5 percent foreign and out-of-state undergraduate enrollment 12 years ago, by this fall that figure had risen to 21 percent. Even more worrisome to many parents of California high school graduates with top grades was the fact that well over 30 percent of the admission offers sent out by UC last spring went to non-Californians. This included 45 percent of all offers to attend UC Berkeley, 42 percent for UCLA and 35 percent at UC Davis.
The university tried to explain this away by noting it has longstanding records of how many admission offers are accepted by out-of-state and foreign students and that these assured that new non-California enrollees this fall would not number anywhere near 30 percent.
And they didn’t, as the overall 21 percent figure demonstrates.
By all accounts, the large non-California contingent is a response from Napolitano and her immediate predecessors to funding cuts the university endured under several recent governors. Out-of-state students pay just over $24,000 per year more in tuition than state residents. This gleans hundreds of millions of dollars yearly, making up for much of what the state no longer provides.
But over the last two years, legislators began hearing complaints from constituents about all this. They responded by tossing UC an extra $25 million in the current budget, earmarked for increasing the number of in-state undergraduates by 5,000 no later than next fall.
Napolitano agreed to that, even though the $25 million would cover only about half the cost for those additional students. The university promised to seek more money in the next two budgets for yet another 5,000 California students.
Any shortfall can be made up with just a relative few out-of-staters, thus holding pretty steady the percentage of non-Californians enrolled. The university now says it will increase the actual number of out-of-staters, but slow their rate of increase in order to keep percentages steady. Tuition for the non-Californians will rise, too, even as in-state tuition remains frozen at $12,200 at least until the fall of 2017. Other money for new California students will come via reductions in loans and scholarships for new enrollees from out of state.
No one is saying which campuses the new California students will attend, but it’s a safe bet the vast majority will not wind up at high-demand campuses like Berkeley, UCLA, Davis and San Diego. Still, Napolitano assured the regents that all those campuses nevertheless will get significant numbers of the new students.
The upshot of all this is that the outrage of California parents who watched their children meet every requirement for UC admission – and still not get in – has produced results.
It’s one of the rare times in recent memory that both legislators and other top state officials actually listened to their constituents. Maybe some other so-called public servants watching this happen will also learn a little responsiveness.