At the start of their senior year, high school students in California enter a frenzy of crafting individual college plans and sorting through overwhelming mountains of essays, recommendations and applications.
Amid the hectic process, though, one pillar of the procedure remains largely the same for nearly every California senior: aspiring for the UC and CSU systems, which promise the prospect of joining and benefitting from the state’s vast public school system.
For a large number of Californians, however, acceptance into these systems has become an increasingly grueling task as the proportion of resident students in state schools has decreased over the past several decades.
A higher education budget bill passed by the state in the summer of 2021 provided measures to reduce the proportion, over five years, of out-of-state students in the University of California system to 18% of the incoming class. The bill included a potential $1.3 billion annual fund to cover the costs of losing out-of-state tuition.
With several of its schools having over 20% of their students from outside the state, the UC system will see a noticeable decrease in admissions of these students. In turn, the state hopes the system will be able to accept an increasing number of California residents to its schools in their place.
Though the prospect of cutting down acceptance for out-of-state residents will come at some expense to the schools, the growing need for the UC system to increase its number of in-state applicants is urgent enough to justify the state government’s drastic measures. If enacted, the legislation provides a necessary service to California’s schools and its students.
The most prominent reason for such action is the rising discrepancy between California’s output of qualified students and the state’s resident acceptance rate for these students.
However, rather than success, these students have seen increased competition for a limited number of university spots.
The same report shows that the percentage of in-state applicants to the UC system has grown from 17% to 25% over the last two decades, while enrollment rates for these students have remained stagnant at around 8%. The CSU system also showed a near-identical trend in its admissions.
The effects of this constant enrollment rate is the loss of accessibility of the UCs and CSUs to residents of their own state. With the acceptance rate of in-state students not matching their level of eligibility, some action is required to increase the acceptance rates of students.
As California’s university system expands and enrolls an increasing number of freshmen each year, this will be a factor that helps make UC and CSU education more attainable.
In addition to fulfilling a larger portion of California students’ needs, increasing in-state admissions may also provide a vital boost to the schools’ diversity.
Data published by the UC system shows that a 5.34% increase in California student admissions between 2020 and 2021 led to a 9% increase in the already-prominent population of in-state Latino students and 15% increase of in-state African American students, as well as noticeable increases in several other racial and ethnic minorities.
Wanting to increase the population of these groups in California’s Higher Education systems is a no-brainer; in addition to being beneficial to all students’ educational experience, diversifying the school environment will help bridge gaps in diversity found by the Campaign for College Opportunity Report in many of the UC system’s freshman majors.
Even with the potential increases in ethnic diversity, however, several critics of this legislation say decreasing out-of-state enrollment will cause a loss of diverse experiences and voices that can only be attained by students from outside of the state. In fact, these concerns do have some merit; students coming from outside of California still serve a vital role in the UC and CSU systems, and measures should be taken to ensure that they are still able to provide their unique value to the schools.
As the state schools pride themselves on being inclusive and ideologically and culturally diverse, it is important for the state to remain cautious so as to not jeopardize this value through excessively decreasing non-resident students’ ability to contribute to it. As it stands, however, a small dip in their enrollment is unlikely to have a significant impact on campus life.
In addition to out-of-state students’ diversification of the school environment and productivity, their admissions have benefitted state schools in one other way; heightened out-of-state tuition serves as a major pillar of financial support for the UC system.
A data report published in the UC Office of the President’s budget detail for the school shows that as state funding for public universities has dropped from nearly 70% of the schools’ money to well below 40% over the last two decades, colleges and universities have become more reliant on tuition as a source of funding, with nearly 40% of the system’s income coming from tuition in 2020.
The loss of tuition from out-of-state admissions could be catastrophic for the university systems, which have previously been unable to rely on dwindling state financial support.
In the last year, however, California has made signs that suggest an interest in increasing funding to its public universities. The budget bill’s proposition of a weighty annual fund to counteract losses from out-of-state tuition, along with increased contributions to other aspects of the school such as student housing, show a positive investment by the state into the school system.
Removing financial constraints through an increase in funding would make it possible for them to disregard financial motivations for determining accepted proportions of resident and non-resident students, paving the way for a plan like the one proposed last summer to succeed.
By increasing the number of resident students, California universities will better meet the needs of students in the state, both quantitatively and demographically. While the proposed bill risks the loss of some valuable student experience from outside the state, it benefits students, the state and the universities.