California’s two public university systems are facing major decisions about enrollment and graduation rates as the result of the new state budget and financial incentives approved by legislators this week in Sacramento.
At issue for the 10-campus UC system is the rising number of students from outside California – students who are coveted for the nearly $27,000 in tuition they pay on top of the $12,800 that in-state residents are charged. A harshly critical report by the state auditor accused UC of admitting too many out-of-state undergraduates at the expense of California students. It recommended stricter entrance requirements for non-residents and a cap on their enrollment.
The new budget offers UC an extra $18.5 million if the university enrolls 2,500 more California residents by the 2017-18 school year and if the UC regents adopt a university-wide policy capping the enrollment of non-residents.
UC officials denied that state residents are being harmed, and they say the university needs the revenue from the much higher tuition that non-residents pay.
Currently, about 15.5 percent of all UC undergraduates are non-residents. However, those numbers are much higher at UC Berkeley, UCLA and UC San Diego, which caused UC president Janet Napolitano to cap non-resident enrollment at those three campuses starting last year.
H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the California Department of Finance, said Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature decided not to set a numerical or percentage cap and not to insist that caps should be an average for the system or any individual campus, leaving those details for the UC regents to decide. The governor, who is a UC regent, “looks forward to having a discussion with the regents about what the appropriate level should be,” Palmer said.
Some legislators have pushed for a 10 percent cap.
In a recent statement, the UC leadership said the $18.5 million would not cover the full cost of the extra 2,500 California undergraduates, but that UC “looks forward to working with the Legislature and the governor on continuing to grow California enrollment and keeping tuition as low as possible.” As for the enrollment cap on non-residents, UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein said that Napolitano has been working on “finding the right balance” and that a policy discussion may take place at a regents meetings in July or September.
UC already is working to expand the number of California undergraduates by 5,000 for the upcoming fall enrollment in response to a previous $25 million bonus offer in state funding last year. That would amount to about a 10 percent increase over the nearly 50,000 new in-state freshman and transfer students who enrolled last fall.
For the 23-campus Cal State system, the budget is offering $35 million – a boost from the $25 million previously suggested in Brown’s May revision – for programs that would improve the four-year graduation rates, with special emphasis on underrepresented and low-income students.
Cal State officials said they are confident they will be able to develop the goals and plans by September, in time to meet the Legislature’s expectations. The funds would be used to hire more academic advisers and faculty, add class sections, improve remedial courses, expand online classes and reform degree requirements and pathways.
System spokeswoman Laurie Weidner said that the budget offer of $35 million is “consistent” with past plans that have led to improved graduation rates. While Cal State wants completion rates to rise across all groups of students, the university is “very focused” on boosting rates of low-income students and minorities, she said.
According to the budget, the money would be contingent on the CSU system “articulating clear, coherent plans for the university as a whole and for each campus” to boost four-year graduation rates and to get low-income students who receive federal Pell grants – often those with family incomes below $40,000 annually – to graduate at rates similar to those of more affluent students who do not receive those grants.
Of the students who started as CSU full-time freshmen in fall 2011, only 19 percent graduated within four years. Just 12 percent of Pell‑eligible students graduate within four years, compared with 25 percent of non‑Pell‑eligible classmates, according to statistics released by the governor. The overall graduation rate increases to 57 percent after six years for students who entered as freshmen and to 73 percent for transfers, CSU said.