UC turns to nonresident enrollment to cope with funding shortfalls

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In the face of deteriorating state funding, the University of California has begun enrolling more nonresident students to make up for revenue shortfalls, prompting concerns over the university’s commitment to its public mission.

Currently, nonresident enrollment stands at 8.8 percent systemwide, and recently conversations at an administrative level have begun about increasing the nonbinding 10 percent cap on systemwide nonresident enrollment to 15 or 20 percent.

Still, some remain wary about whether the university can increase the number of out-of-state students while maintaining a diverse student body.

“I don’t mean to demonize out-of-state students, but there are consequences to dramatically increasing our out-of-state student body,” said Student Regent Jonathan Stein. “There’s far less racial diversity, and because the tuition for out-of-state students is higher, there is a corresponding lack of socioeconomic diversity.”

Only 10.9 percent of domestic nonresident admitted students were underrepresented minorities, as opposed to 30.6 percent of California residents, according to a UC report on newly admitted students for fall 2011.

Though non-resident students on the whole tend to be less racially diverse, non-residents bring cultural diversity to the university, said UC spokesperson Dianne Klein.

“Someone who grew up in, say, Plano, Texas, comes from a different cultural background than somebody who grew up in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood,” she said. “These students are not displacing Californians — they are helping to pay for their education.”

Debate around the issue has also come up in the state Legislature following the introduction of SCA 22 on May 15. The amendment, introduced by state Senator Michael Rubio, D-Shafter, aimed to establish a formal 10 percent cap on out-of-state enrollment, including international students, at each campus beginning in the 2013-14 academic year. The university formally opposed the bill.

“SCA 22 ensures that California students get a fair shot at attending our University of California system — and not be turned away simply because a wealthy student from the East Coast or abroad shows up with a checkbook in hand,” said Rubio in a statement.

Compared to other public universities across the country, the UC system has been relatively conservative in admitting out-of-state students.

In its fall 2011 incoming classes, 42.9 percent of students at the University of Iowa and 39.7 percent of students at the University of Michigan were nonresidents, according to a UC report on nonresident value.

Ted Spencer, executive director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Michigan, said the school does not have admissions policies that address the ratio between nonresidents and in-state students.

Going forward, the university remains open to moving in that direction and enrolling more nonresidents, Klein said.

“In this new reality of dramatically reduced state support, UC must remain nimble and creative in order to preserve the guiding principles of our university system: access, affordability and academic excellence,” Klein said.

Jamie Applegate covers higher education. Contact her at [email protected].