UC regents discuss nonresident enrollment, Stiles Hall at May meeting

Michael Drummond/File

The UC Board of Regents gathered Tuesday afternoon in Sacramento to discuss an ongoing UC-wide housing initiative and a recent state report on UC out-of-state enrollment.

In January, UC President Janet Napolitano announced the housing plan, which seeks to add 14,000 beds to UC campuses by 2020. Since the announcement of the initiative, Nathan Brostrom, the university’s chief financial officer — along with members of his office — has visited all 10 UC campuses to explore ways to provide additional housing for students.

Their conclusions reflect a harsh reality for most UC campuses, where there exist a tremendous need for additional housing in expensive and volatile real estate markets. Brostrom said at the meeting that the university does not have the debt capacity to encourage traditional housing development on every campus, so the university will rely on alternative strategies such as public-private partnerships to fill the housing need.

UC Berkeley presented its new residential housing project, Stiles Hall, to the regents for design approval. American Campus Communities, a nationwide developer of private student housing, will oversee both the project and a long-term lease on the hall. The campus plans to begin construction on the hall, which will stand at seven stories tall and accommodate 773 students, in fall 2016.

The new residence hall will be located across Durant Avenue from Unit 3, where Stiles Hall currently sits, and the plan presented assumed students would use the existing dining facilities in Cafe 3.

Regent John Perez said at the meeting that he was “very concerned” about what he perceived as a lack of foresight from campus planners in providing additional dining space for students. The dining facilities at Unit 3 were built alongside the residence hall with the intention of serving a residence hall composed of only double-occupancy rooms.

Unit 3 is now a mixed composition of doubles and triples, and Perez expressed worry that an additional hall of students would overload the dining capacity. After Perez raised his concerns, the design vote was tabled until Thursday, when the university promised to deliver a memo on student access to dining services.

The regents also discussed the state auditor’s report, released in late March, which harshly criticized the university’s policies regarding nonresident enrollment, arguing that these students crowd out in-state applicants.

At the meeting, Brostrom refuted the claims of the report, citing the fact that nonresidents helped to subsidize an increase in Californian enrollment by UC campuses. He added that CSUs, most of which do not enroll as many out-of-state students, “had to turn away tens of thousands of qualified students during fiscal cuts.”

Perez urged the university to take the state auditor’s report seriously and to try and find places to accommodate its concerns.

Alumni regent-designate Cynthia Schroeder said she felt that many alumni were “misinformed by the headlines” concerning nonresident enrollment and that the university should make more information available to them about how it chooses to deal with a lack of state funding.

Stephen Handel, UC associate vice president for undergraduate admissions, emphasized the connection between state support and increased resident enrollment.

“When the state supports enrollment growth, UC responds,” Handel said. “We have an admissions process that has integrity — we are not swapping out California students for nonresidents.”

The regents will reconvene Wednesday and Thursday this week.

Philip Cerles covers higher education. Contact him at [email protected].