Research shows higher nonresident enrollment may decrease diversity

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Increasing undergraduate nonresident enrollment at UC Berkeley may decrease campus racial and socioeconomic diversity, according to research released this month.

In a study analyzing public universities’ enrollment data, professors Bradley Curs and Ozan Jaquette found that as nonresident student enrollment increased, the number of Pell Grant recipients and underrepresented minority students decreased, particularly at research universities such as UC Berkeley.

“Flagship public universities have been a source of social mobility for low-income and underrepresented minority students who cannot afford out-of-state and private tuition,” the paper reads. “Non-resident enrollment growth — chiefly motivated by revenue concerns — may have the unintended consequence of diminish(ing) socioeconomic and racial diversity.”

The research follows years of debate on the role of nonresident students in the UC system. Nonresident tuition has been increasingly looked to as an alternative source of revenue for the university in light of declining state support. Seeking increased revenue due to budget constraints, UC Berkeley set a goal of increasing nonresident enrollment to 20 percent, which the campus expects to reach next school year.

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Nonresident enrollment at UC Berkeley has risen 10 percent since the 2007-08 school year, from 8 percent to 18 percent. UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore said that despite this, the campus has maintained diversity.

“Our data clearly shows that our Pell Grant numbers have remained steady, that our underrepresented minority numbers have been steady and actually increasing,” Gilmore said. “There has always been a commitment to making sure that we were increasing diversity.”

According to the UC Berkeley Office of Planning and Analysis, Berkeley’s African American population increased from 148 in the 2009-10 school year to 165 this year. The Chicano/Latino population increased from 589 to 612 in the same period.

Currently, out-of-state students in the UC system pay around $23,000 more in tuition fees than in-state students. Curs and Jaquette’s research identified high nonresident fees as a filter that discourages many low-income nonresident students from attending out-of-state schools.

“(Nonresident enrollment) crowds out low-income people more than racial minorities,” Jaquette said. “People are very aware of racial diversity, but class diversity often doesn’t get highlighted as much.”

Still, some students have raised concerns about the relatively static underrepresented minority numbers on the UC Berkeley campus. Kirk Coleman, executive director of the UC Berkeley bridges Multicultural Resource Center and a campus senior, said increased nonresident enrollment would inevitably exclude underrepresented minority students.

“It’s problematic that (the campus) thinks where the numbers are now are OK,” Coleman said. “If you look at (underrepresented minority) populations based on state demographics, they are significantly higher than how they are represented on campus. I think that shows where the university is going — not towards more diversity but towards making more money.”

Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion Gibor Basri said the campus considered a potential decrease in diversity when it established the 20 percent nonresident enrollment goal but that diversity has remained steady despite substantial growth in nonresident enrollment.

“The socioeconomic piece is pretty obvious because it’s a lot more expensive to come as an out-of-state student, and the financial aid is much lower,” Basri said. “It hasn’t really had an impact on diversity so far. I’m a little surprised by that, but since people were aware of that issue, there was an extra effort made (to improve diversity).”

UC Student Regent Jonathan Stein has spoken out against increasing nonresident enrollment in the past, pointing to the possibility of nonresident “clustering,” a phenomenon in which out-of-state students flock to top-ranking schools such as UCLA and UC Berkeley more than to other UC campuses. Student Regent-designate Cinthia Flores echoed this sentiment, pointing to the university’s public mission of access and inclusion.

“The primary purpose of the UC is it is supposed to be a system that provides Californians with an affordable education, and a big part of owning up to that commitment is making sure the diversity of California is shown in the UC system,” Flores said. “When you have such an out-of-state-student-focus strategy, the demand for out-of-state students does not translate throughout the system … Then that creates a shortage in the system.”

Libby Rainey covers higher education. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @rainey_l.