Capitol Alert

Sacramento lawmaker would expand UC resident enrollment by 30,000

Assembly candidate Kevin McCarty visits the Sacramento Bee Capitol Bureau on Sept. 17, 2014.
Assembly candidate Kevin McCarty visits the Sacramento Bee Capitol Bureau on Sept. 17, 2014. hamezcua@sacbee.com

Lawmakers would like to see the University of California admit more resident high-schoolers and fewer students from outside the state. UC says it can’t do that without funding increases. Can the two sides finally come to an agreement?

At a budget subcommittee hearing Tuesday, Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, unveiled a spending proposal to expand California enrollment at the university by 30,000 students, or 17 percent, over the next six years. The plan would also mandate a reduction of nearly a third – about 10,000 – in the number of nonresidents, bringing them down to 10 percent of undergraduate students.

McCarty has been a vocal critic of UC’s increasing emphasis on recruiting higher-paying out-of-state and international students, which the university has said was vital to maintain California enrollment amid steep budget cuts during the recession. His proposal follows a recent state audit that argued UC’s actions disadvantaged resident applicants, a conclusion the university vigorously disputes.

The plan would combine additional funding from the state, topping out at more than $200 million in the sixth year, with tens of millions of dollars in administrative efficiencies by UC and a gradual supplemental tuition hike for nonresident students totaling about $11,300.

“It all comes down to money,” McCarty said. “The nonresident enrollment has been born upon economics.”

UC Berkeley sophomore Aarti Jaggi, a materials science and engineering student from Houston, said her friends sometimes debate whether Californians or nonresidents have a more difficult time getting into the university.

Representatives from UC at the hearing were caught off-guard by McCarty’s budget proposal, which passed unanimously and will advance to the full Assembly budget committee for consideration.

“We oppose. That’s my first comment,” said Kieran Flaherty, the university’s interim executive director for budget. “It’s a very steep increase, equivalent to adding a whole new campus.”

“However, I would be open to continuing a conversation,” he said.

UC is already in the midst of a three-year plan to increase California enrollment by 10,000 students, though the UC plan will also add 3,000 more nonresidents to help cover the cost. For enrolling 5,000 more Californians next fall, the university is set to receive a $25 million budget bonus from the state.

Across the street from the Capitol, UC’s governing board met for the first day of its bimonthly meeting, where the university continued to push back on the state auditor’s findings.

Stephen Handel, associate vice president of undergraduate admissions, said the report was “based on faulty foundational assumptions leading to a series of inaccurate conclusions.” He said it failed to consider that resident enrollment slowed in the absence of new state funding rather than the increase in out-of-state students, whose supplemental fees pay for their entire education and allow the university to admit them in addition to, not instead of, Californians.

“We are unequivocally committed to giving precedence to California students at the UC,” added Monica Lozano, chair of the Board of Regents.

But as some dismissed the audit as a political attack, Regent John A. Pérez, former Assembly speaker, countered that it was an indication the university needed to do a better job of explaining the value, both fiscal and educational, it derives from having nonresidents on campus.

“I, for one, do not feel comfortable rejecting out of hand or characterizing as political the work of the audit,” he said. “Conversation would be much better than accusations going back and forth.”

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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