This month, the UC Board of Regents is set to consider both a nonresident tuition increase and a cap on nonresident students, which includes out-of-state, international and undocumented students. Both of these measures will damage the UC’s status as a national and global leader in higher education and harm all UC students, including Californians.
The regents are considering capping nonresident enrollment at 10 percent, which is a dramatic decrease from the systemwide average of 16.5 percent nonresidents. This number is already far lower than the national average of nonresident students enrolled in public universities, which is 27.9 percent. The proposed cap would further limit the UC’s ability to draw in top talent from every corner of the country and the world. Nonresidents bring a diversity of perspective, life experience and academic expertise to the UC system. This contribution enriches the classroom experience for in-state students and boosts the UC’s ability to solve the world’s problems through its research. If the UC diminishes its multicultural atmosphere, it will begin to lose its appeal to Californians who want their education to include globally informed perspectives.
The nonresident tuition increase will only further erode the UC’s value. Nonresident students already pay three times the amount of tuition that residents do. Under the current financial model, each nonresident student contributes to the need-based financial aid of two Californian students. Resident students will have less financial aid support if fewer nonresidents enroll, but raising the cost of attendance for nonresidents is not a productive solution. Already, nonresidents are at a breaking point where costs are forcing us to take out loans, struggle to make ends meet, work multiple jobs on top of coursework, and delay our parents’ retirements while diminishing their savings.
The added cost will make a UC education inaccessible for more potential nonresident students, discouraging a more diverse applicant pool from applying and enrolling.
I will be graduating with tens of thousands of dollars of student loans, despite working throughout my time here. While I do not regret my decision, when I look back on the considerations I made when choosing UC Berkeley over an Ivy League university, one of the primary considerations was my financial security. If the UC continues to raise tuition on its nonresident students, students like me will choose to go elsewhere.
These changes will limit the UC’s ability to compete globally. As other top universities accept and educate exceptionally accomplished and bright people, the UC system will struggle without comparable access to the same talent pools, especially the talent that comes from low- and middle-income nonresident families. It is difficult to see a scenario where this wouldn’t hurt the reputation of the UC system and contribute to a decline in its national and international relevance.
The responsibility of educating the leaders of tomorrow, regardless of where they are from, requires generosity and openness on the part of the UC. Salwa Meghjee, an out-of-state student who works two jobs for the opportunity to study here, says, “For students like me and students from states that are small or have underfunded public education, the best schools we have access to in our state don’t remotely compare” to the UC.
The good news is if we recognize that we need nonresidents to help us solve the world’s greatest problems, Californians benefit from the innovations the UC creates. 81 percent of UC Berkeley grads stay in California after graduation, contributing to California’s economy. For every $1 invested in the UC, the UC reinvests $10 back to gross state product and $14 to economic output. As an out-of-state student myself, I plan to stay and work in California.
A nonresident enrollment cap is something that is adamantly opposed by students (resident and nonresident), and the University of California Student Association has taken a strong stance in opposition to it. It is also opposed by our highest administrators; UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ stated in a forum two weeks ago that she does not support a nonresident enrollment cap and that she recognizes the value nonresidents bring to campus.
The UC has identified diversity as one of its key priorities, recognizing that diversity is “integral to the University’s achievement of excellence.” But an enrollment cap and tuition increase would mean the UC is losing an indispensable part of this diversity. If the regents want a system of higher education that is world-class, they will have to recognize that the noble goal of expanding educational access to Californians cannot be at the expense of nonresidents.