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Senator proposes legislation to cap nonresident enrollment at 10 percent per UC campus

By Emily Suh

May 21, 2012 12:17 a.m.

A California lawmaker is proposing to limit out-of-state enrollment at the University of California ““ a move that UC officials say could hinder the university’s ability to generate extra revenue during a time of cuts in funding from the state.

Senate Constitutional Amendment 22, introduced by state Sen. Michael Rubio (D-Shafter), aims to stop an “alarming” trend of increasing nonresident enrollment at the UC, according to a press release from the senator.

If passed, the legislation would limit nonresident enrollment to 10 percent of the total incoming class at each UC campus.

The measure is supported by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, a union that represents UC employees.

“This means that when my kids aspire to go to a UC campus … they stand a chance at it,” said Kathryn Lybarger, the president of the union, at a press conference held alongside the UC Board of Regents meeting last week.

Nonresident students made up 6.9 percent of all undergraduates in the UC system as of 2011 ““ a relatively small percentage, said Steve Montiel, a UC spokesman. He said similar public universities, such as the University of Michigan, have a substantially higher percentage of nonresident students.

The UC currently has a systemwide cap on nonresident enrollment, but individual campuses do not have a limit, which would change under the proposed legislation. Because of the UC-wide limit, the enrollment of nonresident students in the entire system falls below the proposed cap of the legislation, although some campuses exceed 10 percent.

The regents voted to increase nonresident enrollment in 2010. At the same time, they also instituted a systemwide limit of 10 percent for nonresident enrollment to guarantee that all eligible Californian students can attend the university, Montiel said.

The move came at a time of increasing cuts from the state ““ the university generated more revenue by offering admission to more out-of-state and international students.

Some campuses, especially UCLA and UC Berkeley, have more nonresident students applying for admission than the other campuses, Montiel said. About 18 percent of UCLA’s first-year class consists of nonresident students, according to a report from the UC Office of the President.

“These campuses are the ones that need to have flexibility in admitting nonresident students,” he said. “There’s way more demand from out of state, and this is how (the campuses) maintain quality and competitiveness.”

Limiting the number of out-of-state students admitted to UC campuses through the proposed legislation would reduce necessary funding for the UC, especially in a time of declining state support, said Daniel Mitchell, professor emeritus of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

Out-of-state students pay significantly higher fees, which subsidizes students from within California, he said.

“If you restrict the university’s ability to raise funds and don’t provide alternative sources, where will the money come from?” Mitchell said.

Proponents of the bill, however, say increased nonresident enrollment hurts Californian students, who should be the UC’s first priority.

“(Increased out-of-state enrollment) limits opportunities for in-state students, whose taxes help fund the UC system,” Rubio said in the statement provided by his office.

Patrick Le, the undergraduate chair of the University of California Students Association, said he feels that increasing out-of-state enrollment ““ coupled with possible tuition hikes ““ hinders the public mission of the UC and contributes to what he called “privatization of the university.”

“It’s called the “˜University of California’ because we’re referring to Californian students,” Le said. “(Nonresident students) pay a lot more in tuition and fees ““ they’re more attractive for the university for a truly budgetary reason ““ that’s it.”

But the proposed legislation may also be at odds with the state constitution because the UC is, for the most part, autonomous in its governance according to state law, said Student Regent Alfredo Mireles Jr.

For a constitutional amendment to pass in California, the measure must apply to all similar state agencies ““ in this case, all public universities in California, Mireles said.

In its present state, however, the amendment applies only to the University of California.

The proposed amendment can be placed on the November ballot by a two-thirds vote in the state legislature or signatures of 8 percent of voters from the last gubernatorial election. To pass, it must be approved by a majority of California voters in November.

Mitchell said he does not think the measure will make it on the November ballot because the legislation lacks support among the state congressmen.

“It seems like this is just one member of the state senate dropping a bill in the hopper somewhere, but it doesn’t mean he has the votes to (be successful),” he said.

Contributing reports by Naheed Rajwani, Bruin senior staff.

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Emily Suh
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