Enrollment data prompt debate over makeup of student body

SAN FRANCISCO—At a meeting of the UC Board of Regents Wednesday, admissions and enrollment data generated debate among board members who were divided over how the university will determine the makeup of its student body in years to come, while balancing a need to increase revenue, decrease excess costs and serve the needs of as many students as possible.

At the meeting, some board members advocated for increased international and out-of-state enrollment in order to maintain a competitive academic climate and to generate revenue. However, others emphasized a need to remain committed to the state’s Master Plan for Higher Education, which has the intent of allowing Californians — including first-generation and lower-income students — access to higher education.

A presentation by UC officials at the meeting laid out several goals for the university in the coming enrollment cycles, including boosting the overall quality of incoming students, increasing the presence of underrepresented minorities and maintaining a sufficient level of access for disadvantaged students.

In addition to the increased revenue international and out-of-state students generate through tuition, one of the Committee on Educational Policy’s agenda items states that nonresident students’ qualifications, including high school grade point averages and standardized test scores, are “better in many respects.”

“The UC is a very special place, and we have an obligation to attract and keep the brightest students in the world to our campuses,” said Regent George Marcus at the meeting. “I don’t think that it’s in conflict with any of our policies.”

Board members were also concerned that other prestigious international universities could offer more enticing enrollment packages to students that would otherwise attend a UC campus. However, figures presented at the meeting show an upswing in nonresident enrollment from about eight percent in 2010 to over 12 percent in 2011.

In addition to concern that the university is not able to enroll top-tier nonresident students, Regent George Kieffer said that the university’s current focus on fundraising efforts for scholarships for disadvantaged students might be stifling the university’s ability to attract quality California resident students.

While the board addressed concerns regarding attracting qualified students, it also discussed the freeze in enrollment growth brought on by state budget cuts and the need to continue increasing the overall diversity of the student body.

In addition to ethnic diversity, the board discussed ongoing efforts to make affordable education available to every socioeconomic class. The presentation showed that in 2011, 45 percent of incoming freshmen were first-generation university students, and more than 40 percent of freshmen were from low-income families.

“It’s important to highlight what the University of California does for the state of California by providing access to an educational experience that may not otherwise be available to those students,” said Daniel Simmons, chair of the systemwide Academic Senate.

Ultimately, the board shelved decisions brought up at the meeting — including proposed additional costs to international students’ tuition fees — and reserved them for Thursday’s meeting.

Damian Ortellado of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.