With college admission season coming to a close, many Berkeley High School (BHS) students have been dismayed to receive UC rejection letters, as many spots go to students from other states or countries. Admission rates for out-of-state and international students have been steadily rising in the past eight years, raising the important question: What duty do UCs have to Californian students? Are they fulfilling that duty? And, most importantly, how?
Some students’ fears may be justified: a 2016 report, headed by California State Auditor Elaine Howle, accused the UC system of enrolling nearly 16,000 nonresidents whose test scores and GPAs fell below the median scores of resident students. According to Howle, this relaxing of standards was a bid to receive additional tuition revenue — an estimated $550 million for the 2016-17 school year.
In response to this report, UC President Napolitano proposed a twenty percent cap on rising non-resident admissions in return for $85 million in state funding, voted on this month.
The most popular campuses such as UCLA and UC Berkeley, which have nonresident student bodies higher than twenty percent, will be allowed to keep but not increase their amount of out-of-state and international students.
But the $85 million will most likely not fill the hole — state educational funding has gone down in recent years, and even admitting more (potentially unqualified) out-of-state students, UC and CSU state spending per student is at a thirty-year low, according to the California Budget and Policy Center.
UCs, as President Napolitano argues, need out-of-state tuition to maintain their standard of educational quality (this is especially true under an administration that has threatened to withdraw federal funding from UC Berkeley).
A further argument for increased non-resident admissions is that non-Californian students, especially international ones, add diverse perspectives to the classroom. This is valid — as we Berkeley-bubblers know, it can be very limiting to discuss world issues among people of the same background as you. And despite the crunch, UCs have resources and a standard of education not available elsewhere, meaning reciprocal benefits for nonresidents.
However, this argument disregards the many Californians who can’t afford out-of-state tuition elsewhere. Despite increased outreach to low-income and minority Californian students among the UCs, getting into a chosen UC campus remains equivalent with getting into many top-tier private universities in terms of admission rates — and unlike those universities, in-state residents are paying taxes to support the UC system.
State schools clearly have a duty to serve their state and its students, and that duty should be balanced with funding pressure.
That being said, the state should provide sufficient funding so that educational quality can be maintained and the push for non-resident tuition does not overshadow the needs of in-state students in the first place. Prop 13 — the measure that fixed property taxes for Californians — has led to decreased educational funding from the elementary to university levels, greatly contributing to, among other ills, the UC admissions crunch. Its reform now appears imperative if our state is ever going to get through these next years with our institutions intact, much less thriving.