State audit will examine UC nonresident enrollment, tuition

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A state legislative committee voted Wednesday to approve an audit of the University of California’s nonresident enrollment, per-student funding and executive compensation.

The audit, which arose from a February meeting at which lawmakers discussed the proportions of underrepresented minorities at the university, is expected to take eight to nine months to complete. At its Wednesday meeting, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee voted to commence the investigation — which will touch on issues of enrollment, tuition, spending, outreach and compensation — in July.

Much of the audit will focus on the university’s rebenching initiative, which began in 2011 after concerns that campuses with a lower enrollment of minority students received lower per-student funding. The initiative aims to equalize per-student funding among campuses by 2018, and the audit will evaluate the university’s progress toward that goal.

The auditors will also analyze the process by which the university determines resident and nonresident enrollment targets and tuition.

“I want to know if … California students are being denied access to quality higher education at (UC campuses) as a result of the increase of nonresident enrollment,” said Assemblymember Mike Gipson, D-Compton, chair of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, at the meeting.

Per-student funding can be affected by the number of out-of-state students on a campus, as individual campuses keep the nonresident tuition they receive. In light of dwindling state funding, tuition revenue — including nonresident supplemental tuition — has become more central to the university’s funding model.

In 2013, out-of-state students comprised 16 percent of the university’s undergraduate and graduate student body, according to UC data. That number varies dramatically across campuses, from 28 percent at UC Berkeley and 21 percent at UCLA to 6 percent at UC Santa Cruz.

On Tuesday, UC President Janet Napolitano announced that the university will freeze enrollment levels for California residents next year without additional state funding. The university will also cap out-of-state enrollment at two campuses: UC Berkeley and UCLA, she said.

“Our (students’) future should not be a bargaining chip in a budget debate,” Gipson said in a statement. “The UC President conditioning student enrollment caps on state funding is unacceptable.”

The audit will examine the university’s outreach to underrepresented communities over the past 10 fiscal years in addition to analyzing the impact of nonresident enrollment on per-student funding. It will also investigate executive compensation packages and the use of nonresident student tuition revenue for the past five fiscal years.

“UC is routinely audited by legislators, and we plan to fully cooperate with this audit as well,” UC spokesperson Shelly Meron said in an email. “We believe the audit will bear out the fact that non-resident tuition supports the education of California students.”

Sahil Chinoy is the lead higher education reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @sahilchinoy_dc.