UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau is one of the first high-ranking officials to express his opposition to a proposal aimed at capping out-of-state UC enrollment at 10 percent. The proposal was introduced by California Senator Michael Rubio, who seeks an amendment to the state’s constitution in order to make the 10 percent cap a legally binding restriction for the UC campuses. Although current UC policy outlines a 10 percent cap, the limit is not enforceable by law—an arrangement that is evident in the out-of-state enrollment rates at UC Berkeley (18 percent) and UC Los Angeles (14 percent) last fall.
“[The UC has] had to respond to the decline in state support through layoffs, furloughs, frozen salaries and system-wide tuition increases. Capping undergraduate enrollment at 10 percent for international and out-of-state students would require more such actions, seriously harming our educational mission,” stated Chancellor Birgeneau in a letter addressed to Senator Rubio.
Rubio’s motives for the 10 percent cap, as revealed in the SCA 22 bill, stem from the belief that increased reliance on non-California residents would “contribute to the perceived privatization of the system and undermine public support for restoring funding.”
In addition, Rubio and other advocates of SCA 22 have argued that enrolling more out-of-state students would limit opportunities for California residents. This would come at a time when UC campuses are experiencing increases in applications from California residents; this past year, UC applications rates from California residents rose by 9.8 percent. “California cannot close the [educated workers] gap by drawing college-educated workers from elsewhere, and will need to produce more graduates through its state colleges and universities,” stated the SCA 22 document.
Birgeneau, however, has offered a criticism of SCA 22 that sheds light on the bill’s detrimental impact on financial aid, university revenue and the average time to graduation. Birgeneau stressed the fact that the increased fees (an additional $22,878 per year) paid by out-of-state UC students enable campuses to obtain a steady stream of revenue—which Birgeneau identified as an important factor in light of the state’s declining support of the UC. At UC Berkeley, higher levels of out-of-state enrollment have enabled the campus to expand access to impacted courses. Limiting these sources of revenue, Birgeneau argues, would result in longer times to graduation due to impacted classrooms and insufficient resources.
Birgeneau also offered critiques that were largely based on the bill’s impact at UC Berkeley, as opposed to the entire UC system. “First, [SCA 22] would lead to a shortfall in revenue of nearly $60,000,000 which would inevitably have to be made up by an increase in tuition,” stated Birgeneau, who estimated that UC Berkeley students would need to pay an additional $3,000 per year.
The second UC Berkeley-specific impact was that of the almost guaranteed elimination of the Middle Class Access Financial Aid Plan (MCAP). The MCAP, which was announced by Berkeley officials in December, would limit middle class parents’ (annual income between $80,000 to $140,000) tuition payments to 15 percent of their earnings. “Berkeley is the only public university in the country which offers such financial aid to middle class students. This program would no longer be affordable,” stated Birgeneau in the letter to Rubio. Birgeneau also pointed out that SCA 22 would limit UC Berkeley and other campus’ ability to fund undocumented students. The letter to Rubio concluded with Birgeneau’s hope that the senator would withdraw SCA 22.