Lawmakers concerned as UC enrolls more Californians, but insist more action needed

State lawmakers on Wednesday called for the University of California system to expand opportunities for California residents, especially at its most competitive campuses, even if it means increasing tuition for out-of-state students.

The percentage of non-resident students at UC campuses has decreased systemwide from 17.7% to 16.3% over the last two years. The state responded to legislative pressure by developing a plan in the Budget Act of 2021 to boost California enrollment within the UC system over a five-year period. While the system has enrolled more in-state residents, it has fallen short of the state’s enrollment targets.

Assemblymember David Alvarez, D-San Diego, highlighted that most UC campuses turn down over half of their applicants, including many highly qualified California residents, which he addressed during an Assembly budget hearing.

Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, related a story from a constituent who was rejected by four competitive UC campuses despite having an impressive academic record. This constituent enrolled in an out-of-state school due to the rejections.

According to a report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), the UC system missed its target for enrolling more in-state students by nearly 1,400 full-time equivalent students this year. Concerns were also raised about nonresidents taking spots at some CSU campuses over California residents.

The LAO report indicates that community college enrollments are rebounding after a decline during the pandemic, impacting transfers to CSU. Despite growing interest in UC campuses with a 30% increase in unique applications from 2013 to 2022, the system faces challenges attracting enough students.

Looking ahead, the UC system aims to add up to 33,000 full-time equivalent students by 2030 to accommodate California residents’ demand, focusing growth on UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UC San Diego.

Seija Virtanen from the University of California Office of the President emphasized the UC system’s reliance on nonresident students for revenue. The plan is to raise tuition for nonresidents to cover the $31 million in additional state funding supporting California residents.

Assemblymember Alvarez suggested increasing nonresident tuition to offset the state’s yearly $31 million contribution. This move could involve raising tuition by about $1,500 annually for about 20,000 nonresident students in the UC system.

CSU, where most campuses have seen enrollment decline, has space in the budget to accommodate 24,000 additional full-time students. Currently, only four CSU campuses have increased enrollment since 2019.

Nathan Evans from CSU mentioned plans to redistribute resources from campuses with declining enrollment to those with greater demand, emphasizing a gradual reallocation process without abruptly affecting any institution.

Evans cited demographic shifts in certain regions contributing to enrollment declines, particularly in rural areas of Northern California and the Bay Area, where the number of families with college-age students has decreased.

CSU is working on strategies like partnerships with K-12 districts and marketing campaigns to boost enrollment and re-engage students who have left higher education.

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