Not on the money

UNIVERSITY ISSUES: A proposed constitutional amendment that would cap out-of-state enrollment at 10 percent for each UC school is a bad idea.

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Rarely has the expression “put your money where your mouth is” been more appropriate.

On May 15, California state Senator Michael Rubio introduced Senate Constitutional Amendment 22, which would implement a 10 percent limit on out-of-state student enrollment at each of the 10 University of California campuses. If passed, the restriction would begin with the incoming class of 2013-14. In response, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau came out vehemently against the legislation, demanding a withdrawal of the amendment. We stand completely in line with our chancellor on Rubio’s bill.

Tuition from out-of-state students — which would include international students under the proposed amendment — provides much-needed revenue for a UC system crippled with budget cuts amidst California’s economic downturn. As such, placing a cap on nonresident enrollment would be not only hypocritical but downright unfair. The state government should not tell the UC to cap out-of-state enrollment while at the same time continuing to cut funding of higher education. Although the UC is considered a public university system, money from the state has dropped dramatically over the last few years and currently sits at about 11 percent of the UC system’s total revenue.

It does not make sense why Rubio and his cohorts are even trying to do this. Rubio claims that the amendment “ensures that California students get a fair shot” at enrolling in a UC school and should not be turned away because of an influx of wealthy out-of-state students. But all qualified Californians are already accepted, as the top 9 percent of eligible students in California high schools are admitted into the UC system.

California’s feeble 11 percent funding contribution is not a mandate for said legislation. Lawmakers in Sacramento lack the credibility necessary to tell each campus how to select its incoming students — campuses must retain some level of autonomy.

Instead, legislators should listen to the people who actually run things in the UC system, like Birgeneau. He understands the situation, hence the fact that UC Berkeley’s out-of-state enrollment is at 18 percent. UCLA’s is at 14 percent, while the system as a whole was at 8.4 percent as of fall 2011. In a letter to Rubio, Birgeneau declared that capping the rate at 10 percent for UC Berkeley “would do irreparable harm to Californians.”

Nonresident students want to come here. They join the UC system to receive an education and often stay in the state, becoming Californians in the process. Instead of trying to stop them, the state government should create an environment where everyone can afford a UC education. If not, then at least let UC campuses decide who to admit on their own.