Capitol Alert

If you’re eligible for CSU, you’ll be guaranteed a slot under California budget deal

More than 30,000 students who meet California State University admissions requirements are turned away each year because there is no space for them in the system’s most popular programs.

Under a state budget deal unveiled Tuesday, CSU will soon have to offer those applicants a slot somewhere at one of its 23 campuses statewide.

The policy, which CSU must develop and approve by next May, is based on a guarantee at the University of California: All California high schoolers who rank in the top 9 percent of graduates statewide, or finish among the top 9 percent of the graduating class at certain high schools, are eligible to attend UC; if they are not admitted to the campus of their choice, UC offers those students a spot at another campus where there is space, which in recent years has been only Merced.

CSU does not have an equivalent guarantee. Last year, it rejected about 31,000 qualified students who applied to “impacted” campuses or majors, where enrollment is restricted because the number of eligible applicants outstrips available seats.

The budget language, which the Legislature is expected to approve this week, would require CSU to automatically redirect those students to another program or campus that has space.

“We want to make sure they can at least have a letter of acceptance somewhere in the system,” Assembly Budget Chair Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, said.

Ting said the policy emerged from discussions with CSU, but the university declined to comment on Tuesday. Spokeswoman Toni Molle said system officials need more time to review the ramifications of the proposed change.

It’s unclear how much an admissions guarantee would affect enrollment at CSU, which already educates nearly 480,000 students. While UC generally refers to Merced more than 9,000 applicants annually who were not admitted to their campus of choice, according to a state audit last year, fewer than 3 percent of those students accept the offer to attend.

CSU Chancellor Timothy White has repeatedly touted the statistic about 30,000 denied eligible students while advocating for more state funding. The budget deal includes an additional $20.5 million to enroll about 2,000 more students next year, Ting said.

The proposed referral system could increase student access to CSU, California Faculty Association President Jennifer Eagan said. But it may not help all students, particularly those with financial constraints.

“If you planned to live at home and attend your local CSU, it doesn’t really work for you,” Eagan said. “I hope it doesn’t chase people away.”

Editor’s note: The post was updated at 5:20 p.m. June 13, 2017, to include comment from the CFA president.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff