State Assembly committee passes bill aimed at limiting UC nonresident enrollment

Kevin Sabo/Courtesy

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A bill that would cap out-of-state enrollment in the UC system is one step closer to becoming a law after state lawmakers voted 10-3 Tuesday to move the bill to a committee that will evaluate its financial viability.

Amid tension between the University of California and state leadership over space on UC campuses for California students, state Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, introduced Assembly Bill 1711 in January designed to cap UC enrollment of out-of-state students at 15.5 percent of the total undergraduate student body.

The vote to push AB 1711 forward in the legislative process comes after a report by the California state auditor on UC nonresident enrollment.

“The State Auditor recently found that although the UC has insisted that non-resident students do not supplant resident California students, in fact, it continues to grow its nonresident population and displace many of California’s students and families,” McCarty said in a press release.

UC Student Association President Kevin Sabo sees AB 1711 as an attempt to “grab the media’s attention and force a conversation” rather than provide a solution that takes UC funding into account.

In addition to the enrollment-cap bill, members of the State Assembly Committee on Higher Education — meeting for the second time in two weeks — voted Tuesday on bills addressing a range of issues faced by the California postsecondary education system.

Now, bills passed by the higher education committee will move out of the committee and will be sent to a fiscal committee.

Although the higher education committee chair — Assemblymember Jose Medina, D-Riverside, who co-authored AB 1711 — acknowledged that “many bills die in appropriations,” he said the bill could provide a solution to issues with nonresident enrollment.

AB 1711 would require the UC system to limit enrollment of out-of-state students as a condition for receiving state funding. Any campuses with nonresident enrollment exceeding 15.5 percent would be prohibited from enrolling out-of-state students beyond the 2015-16 academic year’s levels. Flagship campuses such as UCLA and UC Berkeley currently have undergraduate populations that are more than 20 percent out-of-state students.

Sabo pointed out that the university uses nonresident students, who payer higher tuition, to fund the enrollment of many California students.

“Taking away the students immediately with a hard cap will force a tuition increase,” Sabo said.

But Medina said that because the state has recently improved its funding of the university, it is an appropriate time to place a cap on nonresident enrollment.

About 15 bills on Tuesday’s hearing agenda address issues pertaining to the UC system, ranging from food insecurity to scholarship eligibility. Of these bills, all but three passed and will move to the appropriations committee.

“My impression is that over the long run, the legislature is doing more to dictate to the UC than they used to in the past,” said campus professor of public policy and economics Jesse Rothstein.

AB 2017, which was also passed by the higher education committee Tuesday and authored by McCarty, addresses student mental health. If the bill makes it through the appropriations committee, the Assembly floor and a similar process in the state Senate, it will transfer $40 million annually from state funds to a newly created College Mental Health Services Trust Account, which would be used to improve access to mental health services at higher education institutions across California.

Several bills the committee passed aim to improve coordination and communication between the three major state higher education systems — the University of California, the California State University and California Community Colleges — and the state government.

AB 1837 would create a new state Office of Higher Education Performance and Accountability, which would collect and coordinate information from the three systems to inform state policies on higher education. Another bill passed last week, AB 2434, would create a commission to monitor trends in tuition and diversity in California’s public colleges and universities.

According to Sabo, the Assembly has until the end of June to approve the passed bills, at which point they would head to the Senate.

Maxwell Jenkins-Goetz covers higher education. Contact him at [email protected].