There is a strong consensus that more eligible in-state students should be admitted to the University of California campus of their choice.
But some legislators have the wrongheaded idea that the way to accommodate more deserving Californians is to exclude out-of-state students, and they have pushed this notion into the budget process instead of restoring the state funding needed to increase UC enrollment.
Assemblyman Kevin McCarty of Sacramento has authored Assembly Bill 1711 that would limit out-of-state enrollment at UC campuses, but he is championing a plan that would actually reduce non-California enrollment and add thousands of California students without paying for them. This plan shorts the university by $4,000 a student, a recipe for turning the world’s greatest public university into little more than a diploma mill.
Over the past three decades, decision-makers in Sacramento have reduced support for all three public higher education systems during budget crunches. State support for UC has been reduced by more than half, while CSU per student funding is down more than 30 percent. During the Great Recession, community college funding was cut by $1.5 billion. That has meant more reliance on tuition and fees and cuts in classes and programs. The miracle is that all three systems have maintained high quality.
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In recent years, there has been a start of a turnaround in state funding for higher education, so the Assembly proposal is particularly jarring.
Those who believe that out-of-state students at UC are displacing Californians are out of touch with reality. The major factor that limits enrollment is money – to pay faculty, provide student services and give financial aid. Out-of-state students more than pay their own way because their tuition and fees are more than $20,000 a year higher, and effectively subsidize the cost of educating California students. Exclude non-resident students and there will be less, not more room for Californians.
Last year, the governor and UC collaborated on a plan to increase resident undergraduate enrollment by 5,000 students over two years. That plan is working and there is opportunity to do more. The state Senate version of the 2016-17 budget would provide the $10,000 per student needed to support that increase – a much more reasonable approach.
Every Californian deserves a shot at the best possible education, but that can’t be done on the cheap.
Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine are co-chairmen of the California Coalition for Public Higher Education and can be contacted at Dickackerman33@gmail.com and Mlevine@gibsondunn.com.