In loyal company

UNIVERSITY ISSUES: The University of California’s changing character, as reflected in admission statistics, reveals the realities it must overcome.

It’s called the University of California for a reason. From the time when Berkeley was the university’s only campus to today’s 10-school system, the UC has exemplified California’s innovative spirit and thrust many of the state’s young leaders to greatness. But the ever-present influx of students from outside California could signal a shift of this character.

Data released Tuesday revealed a 43 percent increase in the number of out-of-state students admitted to the UC system compared to last year. While the applicant pool itself was larger than it has ever been and the admit rates for both in- and out-of-state students dropped, the continued shift toward serving more non-Californians is a result of the harsh political and economic realities the state faces. That alone, however, does not diminish the UC’s ability to fulfill its mission.

In the most literal sense, yes, the university is living up to its goal of educating every academically eligible student from the state. Indeed, the promise is not that Californians are guaranteed a spot at their first-choice campus or that the system is disallowed to teach students from across the globe. The UC’s promise is that those qualified will be offered the opportunity to learn at one of its 10 schools. But the system’s truest, core intent — to educate California citizens — is nonetheless challenged as the proportion of nonresident students rises each year.

Still, out-of-state students in the UC should not be resented for their increased presence. Whether the person to your left or right during lecture came from Sacramento or Boston, they’ll raise a “hurrah for California” regardless. The UC, perhaps at Berkeley more than any other campus, does more than just educate Californians — it creates them. Every student surely values their university, their campus and the state that makes their education possible, and those from even the most far-flung locale prove that in their willingness to pay more to subsidize in-state students.

The trend toward educating more nonresidents signals not a failure on the part of the UC but rather a failure of the state’s taxpayers and political leadership. Again, the system is ultimately admitting every eligible Californian who applies — the UC must cope with the lack of state support by collecting elevated tuition from out-of-state students. Now more than any time before, politicians in Sacramento and citizens from across the state must reinvest in their public schools. If so many people from all over the world value the UC enough to pay more for a California education, it’s time that Californian taxpayers do too.