New California bill prohibits UC from giving preference to nonresident applicants

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Gov. Jerry Brown approved Assembly Bill 1674 on Saturday, which will prohibit UC campuses from giving preference to nonresident applicants for admission over resident applicants.

The new law requires that UC campuses only admit nonresident undergraduate applicants whose academic qualifications either equal or exceed those of resident admits. It was formulated in response to the university’s lowered admissions standards for nonresident applicants in recent years, according to Assemblymember Catharine Baker and Assemblymember Timothy Grayson. Grayson and Baker co-authored the bill along with Assemblymember Kevin McCarty.

Baker and Grayson both pointed to a 2016 report released by the California state auditor as a primary motivation for the bill. The auditor’s report found that the UC system “undermined its commitment to resident students,” adding that the university admitted a greater number of nonresident applicants in response to reduced state funding. According to the report, nearly 16,000 nonresident applicants had scores below the median scores for resident admits at the same campuses.

“I thought that was just infuriating and wrong,” Baker said. “The bill is to try to instill a balance in the UC admissions process that is more fair to California students.”

The bill passed in both the State Senate and the State Assembly with some abstentions and no dissent, which Baker attributed to complete bipartisan support. According to the bill, the university is required to adjust its admissions standards by July 1, 2018.

UC spokesperson Stephanie Beechem said in an email that UC admissions policies and future plans are “fully aligned” with the bill’s provisions.

“UC continues to be fully committed to ensuring that nonresidents are meeting the academic admission standards established in our policies and in the Master Plan, and appreciates the Legislature sharing and supporting that perspective,” Beechem said in an email.

Grayson said the state legislature and the state auditor will oversee the UC system to ensure that campuses comply with the bill’s requirements. He added that the UC Board of Regents will be held accountable by the auditor for the bill’s implementation.

Baker added that because the UC system is institutionally independent, the state legislature does not have the power to directly alter UC policies. But she added that the state legislature does have some influence and that she hopes the UC system will “take this bill to heart. She said that under the provisions of the bill, UC will be required to report to the state legislature annually with updates on admissions standards.

UC Berkeley sophomore Daniel Nguyen, who is a California resident, said he understands the financial benefit of admitting nonresidents with lower qualifications, but he added that he also sees the importance of remembering that the UC system “was built to serve California students.

According to Grayson, the state legislature must address the lack of state funding for the UC system, which causes the university to lower nonresident admission standards and increase acceptance of nonresident applicants.

“The University of California is the envy of the world,” Grayson said. “We must fund it and give it the resources to keep it a global leader in higher education.”

Contact Danielle Kaye at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @danielledkaye.