One of the best things about California is its public higher education. Families elsewhere would give their eye teeth to have an in at a UC Berkeley or UCLA.
And they do. Out-of-state students pay some $37,000 to attend the University of California, roughly triple the in-state tuition. That money has come in handy. During the recession, when the state slashed UC support, supplemental nonresident tuition allowed the university to avoid turning away Californians.
Now that the recession is over, there’s nervousness over out-of-state UC admissions. Though nowhere near as high as in other state schools – more than 40 percent of the University of Michigan’s freshmen, for instance, are out-of-staters – rising nonresident enrollment at flagship UCs has fueled fear that Californians are being crowded out of their own university.
The UC undergraduate student body is still, overall, 85 percent Californian. And the university still makes a space, at some campus, for every California applicant whose grades and test scores meet the criteria for admission. Out-of-state enrollment has been capped at current levels at UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC San Diego, and two-thirds of the eligible California undergraduates who apply still get into at least one of their top UC choices.
But at the flagship UCs, up to about 24 percent of enrolled undergraduates come from elsewhere, and every disappointed child adds to the pressure on state lawmakers to get more Californians into high-demand UCs. Unfortunately, the suggestions so far have been overly politicized and counterproductive. Take Assembly Bill 1711, pending in the Senate after passage by the Assembly last week.
At the flagship UCs, up to a third of incoming freshmen come from elsewhere, and every disappointed California kid adds to the pressure on state lawmakers.
Authored by Assemblymen Jose Medina, D-Riverside, and Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, the bill would force the UC, over the next six years, to cut out-of-state enrollment by 10,000 students while adding 30,000 new berths for Californians. The bill also would cap out-of-state enrollment at 10 percent and gradually raise out-of-state tuition to about $54,000, which is more than nonresidents pay in the Ivy League.
The bill makes no provision for jamming the equivalent of a whole new UC campus into already overwhelmed dorms and classrooms. In fact, Medina and McCarty want to chip in substantially less state money than in the past for the additional students; they want UC to make up the difference by cutting spending and soaking the few out-of-staters who remain.
It’s a strange, punitive proposal, apparently spawned by an equally strange state audit ordered up last year in the heat of a budget fight between Gov. Jerry Brown and UC President Janet Napolitano. Bureaucracies can always tighten their belts, and maybe the non-California market will bear more than we’re currently charging. But jamming the university full of kids without desks and beds while cutting its funding hardly seems like the answer.
After all, the UC is one of the best things about California. So here’s an idea: Why not just admit that it matters to us, and pay for it?