State auditor, UC issue conflicting reports on impact of nonresident students

March 29, 2016

Few students will be on UC Berkeley's campus when instruction begins at the university later this month. On Friday, the state released new guidance for Berkeley and other colleges as they plan for the fall.

The University of California’s move in recent years to increase the number of out-of-state students has hurt California residents’ ability to gain admission into UC campuses, according to a state audit released Tuesday that was quickly challenged by UC.

Nonresident enrollment at the 10-campus system increased by 82 percent, or by 18,000 students, between 2005-06 and 2014-15, while in-state enrollment has dropped by 1 percent, or 2,200 students, according to California Auditor Elaine Howle.

“Over the past 10 years, the university began denying admission to an increasing number of residents to the campuses of their choice,” Howle said in the audit, adding that the university’s actions have caused “significant harm to state residents and their families.”

In its own report Tuesday, UC sharply criticized the state auditor’s findings, calling them “false and misleading.”

UC President Janet Napolitano, who received a draft of the audit earlier this month, said the 250,000-student system continued to guarantee admission to every high school graduate and community college transfer student who met the minimum admissions requirements while the state cut a combined $1 billion in funding following the recession.

However, even as qualified applicants received blanket admission into the system, a growing number were turned away from universities that were their first and second choices.

UC President Janet Napolitano (Photo from Flickr)

The state’s Master Plan for Higher Education requires the UC system to enroll the top 12.5 percent of California’s high school graduates, but does not set targets for individual campuses.

Napolitano said the growth in nonresident students, who pay nearly triple the tuition that California students do, has allowed the system to generate $800 million annually to support programs and services for resident students.

According to the audit, nonresident students have benefited from lower admission standards than their in-state peers, giving nonresident students an unfair advantage when applying to popular universities such as UCLA and Berkeley. That has forced more California students to be denied admissions into these highest-demand universities, the audit stated.

But UC’s report contended that nonresident students don’t displace Californians. Instead, the additional revenue generated by the out-of-state tuition allowed the system to enroll thousands more California students than it could otherwise afford.

Napolitano said that increasing state funding to higher education is the best way to boost the number of California students at the UC.

Last year’s state budget agreement provided an additional $25 million to help grow in-state enrollment by 10,000 over the next three years.

Meanwhile, Howle used the state audit to call for lawmakers to cap nonresident enrollment at UC campuses at 5 percent. In 2014-15, nonresident students made up 17 percent of the total UC enrollment.

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