The California Supreme Court finally issued its anxiously awaited ruling on March 3 — leaving the enrollment freeze lawsuit intact and forcing UC Berkeley to deny up to 2,629 applicants from its incoming fall class. UC Berkeley rejected partial relief offered by Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods, or SBN, which would have allowed campus to enroll 1,000 more in-person students. The effects of the ruling and UC Berkeley’s rejection of the settlement will be felt in Berkeley and beyond — exacerbating unequal access to education for underserved Californians and denying admission to qualified out-of-state and international students.
Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said the loss in tuition money resulting from the cap will likely surpass $57 million, potentially crippling UC Berkeley’s ability to provide enrolled students with essential services and prospective students with financial aid. This ruling harbors long-term implications for prospective students years to come, as well as UC Berkeley’s relationship with residents of Berkeley.
Increasing online enrollment is central in UC Berkeley’s plan to mitigate financial losses. According to Mogulof, 91% of the in-person undergraduates admitted this fall will be California residents, while more than 1,000 remaining admits will be enrolled remotely for the first semester. Additionally, about 650 admitted students will face delayed enrollment until January 2023.
Those who are enrolled online will need online materials and free technological resources. Mogulof said campus administration has yet to determine the accessibility of these resources, but UC Berkeley should ensure they are available so students have time to request accommodations and weigh their options.
Campus must also thoroughly communicate with instructors regarding academic expectations for the upcoming year. Leaving professors to generate their own accommodations has often created unreliable educational experiences for students — while some have offered hybrid and online accommodations, others choose not to. Campus must enforce clear-cut guidelines for professors to provide online resources if students are being forced into virtual learning environments. This will protect critical aspects of UC Berkeley’s educational experience, which is especially critical if online students are charged full tuition.
Moving forward, each stakeholder must carefully consider its impact on the city and campus communities. If it wants to avoid another lawsuit like this in the future, UC Berkeley has an obligation to reflect on its role in displacing long-term residents. Meanwhile, SBN must consider the result of this lawsuit in compromising the education of thousands of students.
More immediately, campus must lessen the setbacks of online instruction by increasing transparency and providing financial and academic accommodations wherever needed. Now more than ever, all eyes are on UC Berkeley to prove its commitment to a top-tier education, diversity and a commitment to student needs.