Senator proposes 10% cap on nonresident UC enrollment

Graphic by Irin Photo
California Senator Michael Rubio is proposing a constitutional amendment (SCA 22) that would entail a UC systemwide 10 percent cap on nonresident undergraduate enrollment. “Recruiting out-of-state students for the purpose of balancing the UC budget contributes to the perceived privatization of the system and undermines public support for restoring funding,” stated Rubio in the SCA 22 document. Although UC policy currently places the same enrollment cap at 10 percent, the policy is being violated at several UC campuses and is not legally binding.

“All UC campuses are attempting to increase nonresident undergraduate enrollment. The supplemental tuition those students pay helps fund classes and services for California resident students,” stated Vice President of Budget Patrick Lenz, in a conference discussion with the advocacy group UC for California. Out-of-state and international students pay an annual rate of $34,729 versus California residents who pays an estimated $11,851 in tuition and fees. The California state budget cuts have doubled the UC tuition within the last 10 years, leaving UC administrators scrambling for alternative sources of revenue.

SCA 22 falls in line with the UC policy of retaining a 10 percent cap on non-resident enrollment, yet many UC campuses have started to stray from this policy over the years. The SCA 22 introduction points out that non-resident enrollment rates at the UC have doubled from 2009 to 2012. This has resulted in surges to out-of-state enrollment especially in more competitive universities that have a larger pool of applicants.

UCR currently has a 7 percent non-resident acceptance rate, yet the rate is much higer at other campuses such as UC Los Angeles (14 percent) and Berkeley (18 percent) for fall of 2011. Opponents of this proposal have criticized the aspect of privatization leaning towards more affluent non-Californians, which results in diminishing access and opportunity to California residents. Others, however, have argued that the move is practical considering the university’s need to find new sources of revenue to compensate for dwindling state support.

“I don’t agree with this proposal because it limits a student’s choice on the school they wish to attend. It’s kind of [like]…Mitt Romney’s statement [of how students] should have just shopped around. Well this is what [students] want to do,” stated first-year ethnic studies major Stephanie Souza, who felt that the move would restrict the educational opportunities of out-of-state students.

“On the one hand, you want to restrict services to California students; on the other hand you want to have enough money to serve California students and a lot of money that you serve California students with comes from out-of-state tuition,” stated UC Riverside Associated Dean of Student Affairs Peter Graham, who questioned whether SCA 22 accounted for the benefits of higher levels of out-of-state enrollment. One such benefit would be the possibility of having an expansion of in-state student enrollment through non-resident funding. “A strict 10 percent is a way of tying the hands…so it’s really a question of is the money being reinvested in California students,” stated Graham.

Meanwhile, fourth-year chemistry major Shane Matta accepted SCA 22 from the rationale of a taxpayer. “I think there should be a cap for out-of-state students because it’s kind of unfair [that] someone who lives in California [and pays taxes]… can’t get in because someone in Alaska is coming,” stated Matta, who also pointed out that enrollment for out-of-state students would result in even higher levels of competitiveness for the UC.

SCA 22 will need a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate in order to pass. The Daily Cal reports that the Senate may act upon the proposal as early as June 15.

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