As a result of student advocacy, the UC Board of Regents has revised the requirements for students to qualify for in-state residency — and therefore pay cheaper in-state tuition.
Starting with the incoming class of freshmen in fall 2019, the new policy will allow students under the age of 24 to qualify for in-state tuition by proving financial independence from their parents for at least one year. Under the former policy, students had to prove independence for a minimum of two years.
UC Berkeley junior Ifechukwu Okeke advocated for the policy changes at multiple regents meetings, beginning as early as November 2016.
“This is definitely a victory in terms of showing students that we do have power,” Okeke said.
Okeke, who moved to California from Nigeria, noted the importance of public comment in opening a dialogue about the issue of residency, saying the regents are often “out of touch” with student populations and need to hear from the students themselves.
Regent John Pérez heard Okeke’s plea at the meetings and brought the issue to the UC Board of Regents and the UC Office of the President, or UCOP, subsequently creating a committee to focus on revising the existing residency policy, according to Okeke.
Okeke added that for some students, being able to attend school may be dependent on the policy change.
“If I was a student who was admitted in spring of 2019 … I would have been able to start school with no glitches, and I wouldn’t have faced unaffordability issues that caused me to take a year off,” Okeke said.
The new policy excludes the residency of parents entirely from whether graduate students are considered residents, according to the agenda item outlining the policy. Before the policy changes, parents were considered in the residency decision if they claimed their child as an income tax deduction.
One of the goals outlined in the policy document was to more clearly define criteria for in-state residency, since 25 percent of UC students have an unclear residency status, according to the agenda item.
Sarah Abdeshahian, communications director for outgoing Student Regent Paul Monge, said she wished there were more transparency in the new policy.
“Whenever regents do policy, they never give evidence of how they implement it,” Abdeshahian said. “No one wants to go through 24 pages to get one thing about their residency.”
Nonresident students will pay nearly $30,000 more than students who are California residents, according to UCOP. Additionally, the university is in the process of discontinuing nonresident eligibility for institutional, need-based financial aid.
Varsha Sarveshwar, outgoing “Fund the UC” campaign manager, said the new policy is indicative of student advocacy done well. She added that students’ persistence in going to the meetings is often able to initiate the change they want.
“We are always advocating for a UC where it’s more affordable,” Sarveshwar said. “It will have a dramatically positive impact on many of the students who go here.”
Contact Matthew Lo and Jackson Guilfoil at [email protected].