State legislation could limit nonresident enrollment at 3 UC campuses

Infographic depicting proposed limits on nonresident students at UC campuses
Helen Xu/Senior Staff

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State legislators unveiled a proposal Tuesday that would increase the number of California residents admitted to three UC campuses by limiting out-of-state and international enrollment.

Over a three-year period, the plan aims to cap nonresident enrollment at 18% at UC Berkeley, UCLA and UC San Diego, according to Robert Gammon, spokesperson for California Sen. Nancy Skinner. The proposal would override a previous plan to instate a 10% limit on nonresident enrollment at all nine UC campuses and instead replace about 900 nonresident students with Californians each year.

“We are focusing our efforts on the three most desirable University of Californias,” said state Assemblymember Phil Ting at a press conference. “They were the ones who saw the biggest increase in nonresident enrollment, and so we are focused on getting them back down to 18% and ensuring that we can get access for more Californians, not just to UC, but access to the three most desirable UCs.”

Gammon noted that the UC system was originally created to serve primarily California residents, and the university has increased nonresident enrollment over time.

In fall 2020, nonresidents made up 26.3% of enrolled students at UC Berkeley, compared to 17.1% in 2000.

“I just get so many calls from parents that feel like their kids aren’t getting into UC,” said California Sen. John Laird at a May 12 budget subcommittee meeting. “I think that is a genuine concern from the committee.”

State legislators have also tried to limit the number of nonresident UC students in the past. In 2012, former California senator Michael Rubio unsuccessfully proposed Senate Constitutional Amendment 22, which would have capped out-of-state enrollment at 10%.

In 2017, the UC Board of Regents agreed to limit the percentage of nonresident enrollment at campuses with greater than 18% nonresident undergraduates at their 2017-18 percentage — 26.5% at UC Berkeley.

Out-of-state student tuition contributes more than $1 billion to UC spending on financial aid, faculty and campus facilities, so an enrollment cap could negatively affect UC operations, according to Seija Virtanen, associate director of state budget relations for the UC system, at the May 12 meeting.

“We understand and support the Legislature’s goal of providing more opportunities for Californians at UC, though we believe trying to achieve this through reducing nonresident students will potentially lead to unanticipated outcomes,” said Ryan King, spokesperson for the UC Office of the President, in an email.

The plan would provide additional funds annually to the three schools to reimburse any lost income from reducing nonresident enrollment, Gammon noted.

However, replacing nonresident fee revenue with a fixed state fund would leave the university financially vulnerable in a recession, according to Virtanen.

The plan would also add a new barrier on top of existing hurdles for international students, said Sarah Kamel, external vice president of the International Students Association at Berkeley. ASUC Senator Rex Zhang added that the policy would make an already competitive application process harder.

“I honestly think it just feels really derogatory,” Kamel said in an email. “International and nonresident students deserve an education as good as the one at Berkeley and it feels unfair for us to have to face an additional boundary to get here.”

Zhang noted that many excellent students would lose out on studying at UC Berkeley, which he said takes pride in being inclusive.

He added that the global perspectives and multicultural backgrounds brought by these students would be largely diminished if the state’s plan was enacted.

“I really hope that this cap will not be implemented so that we can move towards bridging the gap between international/nonresident students and resident students instead of making it bigger,” Kamel said in the email.

Contact Tristan Shaughnessy and Vani Suresh at [email protected].

A previous version of the infographic accompanying this article incorrectly stated that the state senators’ proposal would cap nonresident enrollment at 18% for all UC campuses by 2024. In fact, it would cap nonresident enrollment at three of the UC campuses: UC Berkeley, UCLA and UC San Diego.