University of California delays release of admission data until next month

Rachael Garner/Staff

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Amid ongoing budget negotiations between the UC president and the governor, the university has decided to delay the release of this year’s admission rates until next month.

The reason for the delay, UC spokesperson Dianne Klein said, is current ambiguity about the level of state funding the UC system will receive. Usually, admissions data is released in mid-April. This uncertainty could make preliminary admissions data potentially misleading, according to Klein.

“UC as a system does not have a lot of experience using waitlists,” Klein said in an email. “We are not prepared to release extremely preliminary, and therefore very inaccurate, data.”

Some, however, speculate that the university is withholding data that would increase unfavorable public sentiment in the context of the budget standoff between UC President Janet Napolitano and Gov. Jerry Brown. The standoff occurs in the wake of the UC Board of Regents’ November approval of a possible tuition increase, in direct conflict with the governor’s plan to keep tuition flat.

John Ellwood, a professor emeritus at the Goldman School of Public Policy, said data might show increased numbers of California students on waitlists, even as nonresident acceptance rates remain high.

Data reflecting these numbers could feed unease about decreased access for California students — a frequent target of criticism of the university.

Klein said the delay in the release of admissions data has nothing to do with politics and, rather, reflects the many variables at play in this “unusual year.”

In early March, Napolitano announced a cap on next year’s out-of-state enrollment at UC Berkeley and UC Los Angeles, and a freeze on enrollment of California students across the UC system, to avoid enrolling students for whom Klein said the university has no guarantee of funding.

If the university releases numbers that do not support access for California residents, Ellwood said, it might undermine its position. The state legislature’s priority is to provide access for its constituents. The university, meanwhile, says it needs more funding to produce high-quality education and research, according to Ellwood.

As of January, Napolitano and Brown have met to discuss university funding in their “committee of two” — a collaboration established to examine the university’s budget. As negotiations continue, Ellwood said, the two sides must confront the trade-off between quality and affordability.

Last year, approximately 17 percent of students who applied to UC Berkeley were offered admission, down from 20 percent in previous years, according to preliminary data. Overall, the UC system admitted 86,865 students, representing a 4.8 percent increase from 2013, with the number of California applicants admitted increasing by 1.7 percent.

In general, UC Student Association board chair Kevin Sabo said he believes the university’s decisions about releasing data often have “to do with politics.”

“I view the entire thing as a political battle,” Ellwood said. “None of the sides are being honest.”

Suhauna Hussain covers higher education. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @suhaunah.