UC Berkeley must prioritize student diversity amid potential enrollment freeze

Students of color have driven UC Berkeley’s long and storied history of activism — something that many students, staff and campus leaders acknowledge as one of the markers of its prestige.

Illustration of a lock stretched across Sather Gate being cut.
Bridget Long/Staff

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In the event that the California Supreme Court does not intervene in UC Berkeley’s court-ordered enrollment freeze, the campus will have to admit 3,050 fewer qualified applicants in next month’s enrollment cycle. This could disproportionately disadvantage underrepresented students of color, nonresident students and lower-income students and school districts. With all eyes on the potential changes in the size and demographics of fall 2022’s freshman and transfer class, UC Berkeley must maintain its core commitment to accessible education and uplifting students from diverse backgrounds.

To put things into perspective, only 3.7% of fall 2021’s freshman class was Black. The enrollment freeze could worsen this statistic, as the $57 million loss in tuition money will limit campus’s ability to offer acceptances and financial aid for underrepresented students and lower-income families. The loss in tuition revenue could also hinder campus’s ability to fund essential student services for enrolled students, which are often set in place to serve such students to begin with. As a campus that is already underserving Black students, UC Berkeley must not further compromise its student diversity. 

Campus admissions officers must ensure the student population reduction is equitable. If it doesn’t enroll a higher percentage of minority-represented students, then it must admit the same proportion of marginalized students as the previous enrollment cycle. 

Additionally, the enrollment freeze will likely prioritize California residents, as California legislative leaders have pressured the UC system to cap nonresident enrollment at 18% at all of its campuses. Following the reduction of state support for the UC campuses during the Great Recession, UC Berkeley has largely been relying on a surge in nonresident student enrollment to recover its revenue, as out-of-state tuition is three times as expensive as in-state tuition. As state funding is slowly returning to the UC system, legislators expect UC campuses to rebalance their nonresident population and return admission rates to Californians.

An admissions advantage for middle-to-high-income families, compounded with this advantage for California residents, could diminish student diversity represented at UC Berkeley. Racial diversity on campus — whether from representation in classrooms, student organizations or the ASUC — is absolutely essential to developing an inclusive perspective in which equity is at the forefront of education. 

Students of color have driven UC Berkeley’s long and storied history of activism — something that many students, staff and campus leaders acknowledge as one of the markers of its prestige. In order to continue to uphold its legacy of advancing social justice and leveling the playing field for students of all backgrounds, the campus must prioritize diversity in the admission of the fall 2022 freshman and transfer class.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the spring 2022 opinion editor, Jessie Wu.