Fine with slowing faculty hiring process, but not with increasing out-of-state enrollment

Matt Hong/HIGHLANDER
Matt Hong/HIGHLANDER

During a town hall meeting on Feb. 9, Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox announced a change in direction to UCR’s Strategic Action Plan, or UCR 2020, which seeks to further and guide the future growth of the university. Instead of continuing to hire large numbers of faculty members, Wilcox stated that the hiring process will be slowed down. In the meantime, this shift in focus will be aimed to increasing out-of-state enrollment in undergraduate and graduate studies. Though this decision toward the ambitious hiring process is understandable due to the high number of faculty hires in the last couple of years, to increase out-of-state enrollment runs counter to the UC’s mission statement to provide educational opportunities for California residents. Instead, Wilcox’s announcement demonstrates a blatant goal to acquire funds via the high tuition and student fees these out-of-state students pay.

Since UCR 2020 was announced, UCR has started each fall quarter with a slew of new faculty members in each of the four colleges. From 2013 to now, about 170 new faculty members were hired. Although in 2013-2014, the new hires were mostly in CHASS, the current school year saw new hires in each department with 30 faculty in CNAS, 18 in CHASS, 12 in SOM and seven in both SoBA and BCOE.

Although this hiring process makes sense due to the over 20,000 students enrolled at UCR, it’s understandable that Wilcox believes it is necessary for this process to be taken down a notch. By slowing the hiring process, the different colleges can take the chance to filter out their selection process instead of quickly trying to hire potential prospects, which will benefit students with a more diverse and more innovative faculty. Not only is it important that there are enough faculty members to interact and teach students, but it is also important that said faculty members add to the diversity that UCR prides itself upon.

However, UCR should consider the student-impacted departments and majors that have a high need for faculty members, because these students’ education suffers. If there are not enough faculty members within a department or major, then students will only have less diverse classes to choose from, narrowing the scope of their education. In addition, larger classes inhibit students from getting to interact with their professor one-on-one, which many need to if they wish to apply to graduate programs requiring letters of recommendation. With that said, any future hiring should be done with UCR’s students in mind.

In contrast, the efforts Wilcox wishes to put toward increasing out-of-state enrollment demonstrates motives that are not within the best interests of future college students in California. Tuition paid by out-of state students is vastly different from California residents. For out-of-state students, tuition in master’s programs is often paid out-of-pocket and tuition in undergraduate programs is often triple that of a state resident. Due to this, Wilcox reasons that “those non resident students provide the resources on behalf of the California students.”

This statement largely ignores the bigger issue though: By enrolling more students from outside of California, opportunities for California residents to pursue higher education become more limited. The UC’s mission statement states that it seeks to teach, research and provide a public service to the community it resides in — the state of California; yet, such decisions to favor out-of-state students conflict with the educational system’s mission. Just because someone from a different state has to pay more in tuition and student fees does not mean California residents should be ignored. Although enrolling out-of-state students may keep tuition lower for residents, this decision detrimentally perpetuates the notion that student applicants are not selected based on their skills and academic achievement, but rather the potential fees they would have to pay if enrolled.

Members of the UC Board of Regents like UC President Janet Napolitano can make claims and efforts to increase in-state enrollment in the UCs, yet decisions like Wilcox’s will only prove to reverse any progress made in giving California residents excellent and cost-efficient education.

When justifying the decision, Wilcox stated that a student population made up of 3 percent out-of-state students and 97 percent of residents is not diverse, since the residents come from “… the very same state legislative system. The very same political system. The very same environmental concerns … the very same view of the world that everybody else did.” By having such a population, Wilcox reasoned, “I don’t think that’s doing the students a very good service.”

According to his statement, UCR, “a university of distinction and diversity,” is lacking diversity in a state that has one of the most diverse populations in the nation. If UCR is to become an even more diverse and inclusive school — then enroll California residents. Even in the UC system, there is a “large disparity amongst students of color and white students”; for example, only 28.9 percent of Latino high school graduates were admitted into the UC system in 2014. Before a diverse student population of out-of-state and in-state residents is created, efforts must be made to shorten this current disparity in the UC system and at UCR.

The transparency of Chancellor Wilcox’s decision is welcomed. However, increasing out-of-state enrollment for monetary gain is not a just decision due to subverting the UC’s mission statement and students’ interests.

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