Capitol Alert

UC considering plan to expand resident enrollment by 10,000

The UC system, including UC Berkeley, is eyeing expanding in-state enrollment.
The UC system, including UC Berkeley, is eyeing expanding in-state enrollment. The Associated Press

Following a year in which it was slammed by politicians for admitting more high-paying out-of-state students at the expense of California high schoolers, the University of California is on the verge of committing to a three-year plan that would expand resident enrollment by 10,000 undergraduates.

The proposal – unveiled Monday in background materials for next week’s Board of Regents meeting, where it will be voted on by the university’s governing board – begins with a 5,000-slot increase next fall.

That would allow UC to receive $25 million set aside in this year’s state budget if the system enrolls 5,000 more Californians by the 2016-17 academic year. Two additional increases of 2,500 spots would follow in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

The number of nonresident undergraduates would also grow over the next three years – by 1,200 next fall, then by 1,000 and 800 in the two years after that. Out-of-state and international students pay a $24,024 supplemental fee, on top of $12,240 in tuition, that the university says helps cover the cost of educating students that the state does not supplement.

“This is a big lift, but we are a hundred percent committed to doing this,” UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein said.

The university found itself in a bitter budget battle with Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers last session over the possibility of five straight years of tuition hikes and growing recruiting efforts focused overseas and across the country. A deal approved in June granted UC four years of budget growth in exchange for freezing tuition, but amid the chaos, resident admissions and enrollment actually fell.

According to a count of student statements of intent to register released in August, an estimated 61,971 freshmen started at UC’s nine undergraduate campuses this fall, of whom 49,270, or 79.5 percent, were Californians. That is down from 2014, when 50,821, or 82.2 percent, of freshmen were residents, and 2013, when the preliminary count was 50,398, or 83.4 percent.

Klein said the enrollment expansion would occur at every campus, including Berkeley and Los Angeles, where the acceptance rates have fallen below 20 percent. But draft numbers are still being worked out, she added, and could change depending on where students apply and how they can be accommodated.

“I want to dispel any notion that, ‘You’re just going to put students at the least popular campuses,’ ” she said.

As part of the enrollment plan, UC is also asking the state for another $6 million in next year’s budget to fund 600 more graduate student slots.

“You really can’t do one without the other,” Klein said, pointing out that graduate students fulfill the university’s research mission and help to teach undergraduates. “You need support for that.”

More modest tuition increases could begin again in the 2017-18 academic year, as well, tied to the rate of inflation. After the shock and anger of last year’s surprise tuition hike announcement, UC is hoping the framework will help students plan into the future.

“You can’t just keep (tuition) flat indefinitely without a commitment to that money coming from somewhere else,” Klein said.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff