UC Regents Shift Strategy on Out of State Admissions

UC Regents Shift Strategy on Out of State Admissions

S. E. Williams

The University of California Board of Regents (Regents) is working to right a wrong in its admissions policy by limiting the number of out-of-state and international students admitted to its campuses. 

Just over a year ago, The Voice/Black Voice News reported on a chorus of criticism aimed at the University of California (UC) when a state audit slammed the institution for its high rate of out-of-state admissions. 

While the UC system was admitting additional out-of-state students, it denied admissions to far too many in-state, mostly minority, students who often met and/or exceeded the academic qualifications of those admitted from out-of-state, and particularly international students. 

During the Great Recession, UC officials responded to reduced state funding by implementing a strategy to enroll a greater number of nonresident students; such students pay significantly more tuition than residents. According to the audit report, the University’s strategy resulted in an 82 percent increase in nonresident enrollment (18,000 additional foreign students) during the academic years 2010–11 through 2014–15. Simultaneously, a notable decrease occurred in the admission of in-state freshmen, particularly black and brown students. 

In response to mounting and warranted criticism, last July the UC announced it had increased admission of in-state freshmen by more than 15 percent for Fall 2016, and reduced the number of international students admitted to two of its most prestigious campuses. The effort was viewed as an attempt to diffuse continued criticism of its admissions policy originally sparked by the 2016 audit. 

Last week, the Regents announced an expansion of its revised admissions policy. Under the new policy, nonresident enrollment will be capped at 18 percent at five UC campuses. At the other four campuses where the proportion of nonresidents exceeds 18 percent — UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, UCLA and UC San Diego — nonresident enrollment will be capped at the proportion that each campus enrolls in the 2017–18 academic year. The new policy allows for some growth of out of state admissions at all UC campuses.

When the policy change was announced, UC President Janet Napolitano explained, “Our new nonresident enrollment policy strikes the right balance between UC’s continued commitment to putting California students first and the significant benefits that out-of-state and international students provide the university.” She continued, “This policy represents a broad consensus achieved after extensive consultation with regents, legislators, and other stakeholders.” 

The Regents’ efforts are laudable, but many wonder how long the flawed and discriminatory admissions policy might have continued had the 2016 audit never occurred. Fortunately, it did occur, and moved state legislators to call upon the Regents through the 2016 State Budget Act to adopt a policy that limited the number of undergraduate nonresidents as a condition for receiving $18.5 million to support the enrollment of an additional 2,500 California-resident undergraduates in the coming academic year. 

In the wake of the audit and owed to an agreement with the state, UC enrolled more than 7,400 additional California residents in the fall of 2016. It was the largest year-over-year increase in California-resident enrollment since the end of World War II. UC is now on track to enroll 2,500 additional California freshmen this fall. 

According to the Regents, nonresident undergraduates in California now account for only 16.5 percent of total graduates statewide, compared to an average of 27.9 percent at other Association of American Universities institutions.

“True to the university’s mission, our nonresident enrollment policy underscores our unwavering commitment to the students of the state under the California Master Plan for Higher Education by offering a place on at least one of our campuses to every California applicant who meets UC’s requirements for admission,” Napolitano stated and continued. “It also reaffirms our pledge that nonresident students will be enrolled only in addition to, and never in place of, Californians.” 

An earlier proposal, presented in March, was criticized because it failed to establish a system-wide limit on out-of-state admissions. Critics of that proposal believed it favored campuses that already had high numbers of nonresidents and would have minimized chances for other UC campuses to gain the additional tuition that results from a growth in nonresident admissions. Such criticism forced the Regents to reconsider. 

Under the new policy, Regents are required to review the nonresident policy within four years. This will provide an opportunity to not only assess how effective the new policy has been in maintaining and enhancing the educational experience of California students, but also to determine whether access to UC schools is improved and sustained for incoming California freshman.

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