Fall 2015 admissions cycle reignites out vs. in-state controversy

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A hot-button topic for the past couple of years has been the increasing population of out-of-state and international students admitted in the University of California system. The commencement of the fall 2015 admissions cycle revived the controversy, prompting UC President Janet Napolitano to consider putting a cap on nonresident admission rates. Despite Californians approaching this situation with skepticism, admitting more out-of-state students will benefit residents and nonresidents collectively.

As a result of the recession, the rates of admitted nonresidents multiplied as the UCs, like other public institutions, looked for ways to boost revenue by admitting more out-of-state students. Consequently, these booming numbers have waged a war between those who vehemently argue Californians should be prioritized over nonresidents, and those who firmly believe in the diversity that out-of-state students bring to the table and most notably their higher tuition rates — considering nonresidents pay triple what residents pay.

State Senator Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) recently said of the UC system: “The university’s job is to educate Californians first, the California taxpayers who pay for it.” For the most part, the sizable increase of nonresidents does not bode well with many parents of in-state applicants who fear their children will not have the opportunity to attend a UC, despite their impressive qualifications.

The anxiety of these residents primarily centers around whether or not admitting more out-of-state students will prevent their children from being admitted to their UC school of choice. UC officials guarantee that in-state students are not being omitted to make room for out-of-state students. In fact, the UC system has increased the overall undergraduate population of their campuses across the board to accommodate both residents and nonresidents.

Prior to 1993, the UCs granted in-state residency more abundantly, but since then the qualifications have become considerably stricter. In addition, Stephen Handel, the UC system’s associate vice president for undergraduate admissions, stated that for nonresidents to be admitted, their academic records must be significantly stronger than those of residents. By curtailing the percentage of nonresident enrollment, more competitive nonresidents would potentially be denied admission simply due to their geographic location. Regardless, in-state students are prioritized by default at public universities — even more so within the University of California system, compared to other public institutions such as the University of Michigan or the University of Alabama.

By and large, reducing the rate of out-of-state admits cuts a huge chunk of revenue from the UC system that in turn makes it a herculean task to accommodate the same percentage of in-state students. Considering the extra $400 million that the out-of-state tuition fees provide, downsizing admission rates for nonresidents would suspend necessary dividends. As a matter of fact, these nonresident fees provide about 6 percent of the UC’s core budget. Cutting that off would mean less financial aid in addition to fewer spaces and classes for everyone. In exchange, rising in-state tuition costs would become compulsory. Considering many Californians choose to attend a UC for its lower tuition — that is, compared to private universities — it would defeat the purpose of attending a UC school altogether for some residents.

In response, many out-of-state and international students are cognizant of how their higher tuition costs ultimately fare in the UC’s favor; however, experts say the incoming funds of nonresidents inadvertently results in less support from the state. This subsequently forces the UC to act indistinguishably from private schools by relying on tuition as opposed to tax revenue (although, state support has started to recover as of late).

However, it is also important to note that diversity is a valuable asset, one that UC Riverside in particular embraces and a factor that both out-of-state and international students provide. Youlonda Copeland-Morgan, assistant vice chancellor for enrollment management at UCLA, said, “The conversation was propelled by the declining budget situation in California, but this is a win-win situation,” and added that, “students from different geographies have always contributed richly to the classroom environment.”
UC Riverside, much like the other UCs, started recruiting heavily in the past three years. This past year, UCR spent $900,000 on recruitment and brought in approximately $9 million. There is no denying the kind of capital out-of-state and international students are bringing in. In accordance with Copeland-Morgan, the numbers prove this is indeed a “win-win situation.”

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