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State to audit UC nonresident enrollment, rebenching progress

By Ryan Leou

March 5, 2015 3:19 a.m.

Following a legislative committee vote Wednesday, the state plans to audit the University of California’s nonresident enrollment practices and see how much each campus spends per student.

The audit, which will start in July, comes after a Joint Legislative Audit Committee hearing in February in which lawmakers raised concerns about the uneven funding of UC campuses.

Committee members were concerned that campuses with higher populations of underrepresented minority students have less funding to support students, since those same campuses also tend to have smaller populations of nonresidents.

Each campus keeps its own nonresident tuition, and nonresidents pay more than how much it costs for the UC to educate them. Some UC campuses have used nonresident enrollment as a way to address a decline in state funding in recent years.

Assemblyman Mike Gipson, who chairs the Joint Legislative Audit Committee – the group that approved the audit – said he plans for the audit to examine the growth of nonresident enrollment and if it has affected enrollment for resident students.

UC President Janet Napolitano said Tuesday that the UC will cap resident enrollment at all campuses as well as nonresident enrollment at UCLA and UC Berkeley next year. However, the University intends to increase nonresident enrollment at other campuses next year.

The audit will also check on the progress of the UC’s “rebenching” initiative, which seeks to even out state funding per student at all campuses.

Some legislators said they are concerned that even with rebenching, overall per-student funding remains uneven because of revenue from nonresident enrollment at different campuses.

While the UC system has a nonresident enrollment rate of about 15 percent, UCLA has one of the highest nonresident enrollment rates – about 20 percent. UC Merced, UC Riverside and UC Santa Cruz have the lowest levels of nonresident enrollment.

Nathan Brostrom, chief financial officer of the UC, said at the February hearing that each UC campus must meet its resident enrollment target under the California Master Plan for Higher Education before it can enroll any nonresidents.

Before rebenching started, there was up to a $2,100 difference between the campuses with the highest and lowest levels of average per-student funding. UCLA received 21 percent of the state funding for the UC in 2011, the most of any UC campus.

Under the ongoing rebenching initiative, a greater proportion of new state funds would be allocated to underfunded campuses each year, with the goal of every campus having similar per-student state funding by the 2017-2018 academic year.

Assemblyman Jose Medina, chair of the California State Assembly Committee on Higher Education, said he supports the audit because he wants an update on how the UC is addressing unequal funding of campuses, especially the distribution of nonresident tuition.

“Some interesting information came out of the last audit, so it would be good to take another look at what the UC is doing,” Medina said.

While most of the audit will focus on funding, it will also address why costs can differ from campus to campus.

Paul Golaszewski, a higher education analyst with the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office, said he thinks there could be some disparity in funding per campus because of differences in faculty salary or ability to attract nonresident students.

The University plans to cooperate with the California State Auditor’s office on the audit, said Dianne Klein, a spokeswoman for the UC. The audit is expected to take eight to nine months to complete.

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Ryan Leou | Assistant News Editor
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