State Assembly subcommittee holds hearing on UC enrollment issues

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A California State Assembly budget subcommittee held a hearing regarding UC enrollment issues Tuesday amid ongoing budget negotiations between the UC president and the governor.

During the hearing, the Assembly’s Budget Subcommittee No. 2 on Education Finance discussed issues surrounding changes in the state enrollment-funding process, the lowering of participation rates and the freezing of admission rates for in-state students.

UC President Janet Napolitano announced a cap on next year’s out-of-state enrollment at UCLA and UC Berkeley and a freeze on the enrollment of in-state students systemwide in March. Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal is contingent upon capping nonresident enrollment.

Addressing issues surrounding recent changes in the state enrollment-funding process, Paul Golaszewski, principal fiscal and policy analyst of the Legislative Analyst’s Office, made a series of recommendations at the hearing, including setting the UC enrollment target at the current-year level and updating the marginal cost formula, which calculates the amount of funding per student.

Traditionally, the state each year provides the University of California and California State University with funding specifically designated to support enrollment growth. Because of recession-era budget cuts, however, enrollment targets have been eliminated from the budget.

At the hearing, Nina Robinson, associate president and chief policy adviser of the UC Office of the President, noted a significant decline over the past four years in participation rates in the UC system, which has been forced to reduce enrollment despite the process of referring thousands of prospective students to UC Merced.

According to Robinson, if funding is provided, the university will increase in-state enrollment. She also criticized the notion that increases in nonresident enrollment, coupled with decreases in in-state enrollment, necessarily mean that nonresidents are “displacing” California students.

“Nonresidents are helping to pay the costs of the many Californians for whom we have not received adequate state funding,” Robinson said.

UC Berkeley doctoral student Charlie Eaton, who spoke at the hearing, encouraged the university to restore in-state enrollment rates, which he said is unlikely to happen unless the university is “required to do so by the state budget.”

He also said the university is “constantly under pressure to compete with wealthy private institutions like Stanford.” According to Eaton, Stanford University froze undergraduate enrollment at about 1,700 students, the majority of which are out-of-state, while also doubling non-hospital spending per student.

“While Stanford is among the most extreme cases, exponential growth in endowment financed spending at the wealthiest institutions has unleashed unprecedented levels of spending to lure top faculty and students away from institutions like UC,” Eaton said during the hearing.

Restoring the university’s in-state admission rates, Eaton said, could “further strengthen public support for providing new, dedicated revenue for building on UC’s greatness.”

Fall 2015 admissions data will be released by the university next month.

Contact Jessie Qian at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @jessieq96.