A sea change is going on in the state of California’s public university system, with the University of California’s efforts to recruit more out-of-state students — who pay extra tuition — resulting in nonresidents making up 12.3 percent of the freshman class, an 8 percent increase from last year. The biggest increases are at the three US campuses that are, says the Los Angeles Times, “the most selective, and perhaps most widely known outside California”: UC Berkeley, where nearly 30 percent of the freshman class will be comprised of nonresidents (up from 23 percent last year); and UC San Diego and UCLA, whose incoming freshman classes will be made up of 18 percent nonresident students.
At other UC campuses — Merced, Santa Cruz and Riverside — nonresidents will make up 3 percent or less of the freshman class. UC admission officials have said that the number of California freshmen at all the UC campuses is the same (35,000). As of next fall, there will be 4,925 nonresident freshmen, an increase of 62 percent.
UC admission officials describe themselves as relatively late in the game to recruit nonresident students and point out that “many other public universities, such as those in Michigan and Virginia, enroll many more.”
About 6 percent of all undergraduates in the UC system are nonresidents. Students who aren’t from California pay an extra $23,000 in tuition; given the budget cuts the university (an extra $300 billion this year) and the state of California, have faced, it’s no surprise that there’d be a desire to bring in revenue. But critics see the change in who’s going to Cal (Berkeley) and the other campuses in a different light, as
another sign of what they contend is the privatization of California’s public universities in response to state funding declines, and .. [as undermining] political support for restoring funding.
In Washington state, University of Washington officials have said they have cut the number of in-state students they’re admitting for the fall, says the Associated Press. Nonresidents pay as much as three times the tuition as in-state students and, according to UW admissions director Philip Ballinger, “if the school didn’t admit more nonresident students, it would have to cut the number of in-state students even further.” Even “high school valedictorians and top test-scorers” were not able to get into UW.
I grew up in Oakland, right next to Berkeley. In my parents’ and my generation, UC Berkeley was “the school next door” that many people got into without making any special efforts. I can’t but think that changing the composition of the UC student body means a change in what could be called the mission of the school, and, even more significantly, of a public university in general. Especially to my parents’ generation — many of whom were the children of recent immigrants from China — being able to attend a major university so close to home (so they could still help their families out by working), and at a cost their parents could afford, was part of living the American dream; of knowing that the hardships of leaving your country and of working days and nights doing whatever you could was paying off because you knew your child was going to have something better in her or his life.
Increasingly, it seems that higher education, especially the “most selective” schools, is becoming only for those who can afford it.
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Photo of UC Berkeley’s Sather Gate and students by maveric2003