State legislators passed a budget Wednesday incentivizing the University of California to stall the trend of increasing nonresident enrollment.
The state will allocate an additional $18.5 million to the University if it enrolls an additional 2,500 California residents for the 2017-2018 academic year and institutes a formal enrollment cap on nonresident students. It should be clear to anyone who’s watched the push and pull between the state and the UC that this offer is just another in a series of bad deals for the University. However, in the current political climate, it’s the best offer on the table.
The UC should use this offer to determine a cap on nonresident enrollment that fits its financial needs and satisfies residents disgruntled by the growing number of out-of-state students. Likewise, the California Legislature needs to acknowledge the consequences of capping nonresident enrollment and should plan to either offer the UC larger sums or cooperate on long-term funding solutions in the future.
At first glance, the budget is a generous compromise that prioritizes California residents over nonresidents. As a California public university system, the UC should be doing this regardless, and the state’s attempt to incentivize the UC, rather than force it, is commendable. Yet the budget’s terms offer no solution to the funding shortfalls that created the University’s reliance on revenue from nonresident tuition in the first place.
It’s certainly an improvement from last year’s budget, which offered a $25 million incentive to enroll twice the number of students. But by no means can $18.5 million replace the revenue brought in by a significant portion of the current nonresident population. The sum cannot even cover the cost of raising enrollment by 2,500 students. Asking the UC to spend more and set restrictions on its most flexible source of revenue is not financially sound.
That said, the state legislature is already in the process of mandating a nonresident enrollment cap for the UC. Earlier this month, the California State Assembly passed a bill that would limit the number of nonresident students at the UC to 10 percent of the system’s population, a significant decrease from the 15 percent portion they constitute now.
The current incentive is essentially asking the UC to re-evaluate the stake nonresidents have developed in the University as well as make good on the UC Board of Regents’ promise from last November to enroll an additional 10,000 residents by 2019. In addition to boosting the UC’s budget, it gives the UC the opportunity to determine a cap before the state does so on its behalf.
It’s clear that the UC cannot avoid a cap both the state and taxpayers want. Having the freedom to set the cap itself will hopefully allow it the flexibility to sustain its operating costs while setting a precedent for public education.