With acceptance rates at elite universities plunging to all time lows, UC Berkeley’s court-ordered enrollment freeze will force the campus to mail 5,100 fewer acceptance letters next month — resulting in a 32% decrease from typical enrollment. Unless the Supreme Court of California is able to intervene, the enrollment cap for 2022-23 admissions will deny thousands of qualified applicants. Reducing the student population goes against the UC system’s commitment to leveling the playing field for students from diverse backgrounds.
The enrollment cap will also have devastating financial repercussions, chalking up to a formidable $57 million loss in tuition money. This will hinder the campus’s ability to continue instruction, provide financial resources for students with low incomes, fund essential student services and properly maintain campus-owned facilities and housing.
Current and incoming students who need these resources should not have to suffer as a result — campus must invest more to accommodate all students, regardless of the outcome of its appeal. If UC Berkeley wants to increase enrollment in the future, it needs to be able to house and support a larger student population without negatively impacting its surrounding community.
The campus currently houses the lowest percentage of students in the UC system: only 22% of its undergraduate students and 9% of its graduate students. While campus plans to build close to 12,000 beds in the coming years, it would still leave more than 70% of its students without guaranteed affordable housing. This has forced students into off-campus housing, which threatens to displace tenants and houseless populations.
This housing crisis was exacerbated by UC Berkeley’s failure to study the impact of the student increase on the surrounding city and inaccuracies in its 2005 Long Range Development Plan, which greatly underestimated the student population.
Allegedly inadequate planning for a larger student population contributed to the enrollment freeze. In exchange for dropping its opposition to the 2021 Long Range Development Plan and environmental impact report for enrollment increase, campus entered an $83 million agreement with the city of Berkeley. However, Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods, the same organization that pointed out UC Berkeley’s 2005 plan’s lack of foresight, maintained these allegations and continued to pursue its current enrollment freeze case against UC Berkeley.
There is no simple solution to this housing crisis. A California Supreme Court intervention on the enrollment freeze, as financially relieving as it may be, will not address campus’s postponement of long-term solutions for short-term population increases.
UC Berkeley must be allowed to continue to invest in affordable housing projects on land it already owns while avoiding displacing residents. If the enrollment freeze is upheld, campus must also ensure budget cuts aren’t made in smaller departments that can’t absorb a loss of funding and that the newly enrolled class is still representative of the diversity it claims to strive for.