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Audit finds UC enrolls out-of-state students at expense of residents

By Ryan Leou

March 29, 2016 10:51 a.m.

It has become more difficult for in-state students to gain admission to the University of California because of relaxed standards for nonresident students, according to the California state auditor’s report released Tuesday.

State Auditor Elaine Howle said in the report that after relaxing admission requirements for nonresidents in 2011 amid a decline in state funding, the UC admitted nearly 16,000 nonresidents whose scores fell below the median test scores and grade point average for admitted residents at the same campus.

She also wrote that the UC denied admission to an increasing proportion of qualified residents at the campus to which they applied. The UC instead referred them to UC Merced, at which few students enrolled.

Howle noted that revenue from nonresident enrollment internally could have been offset by spending less on annual employee salaries, which reached $13 billion during the 2014-2015 fiscal year. She also said that the University’s claims of savings, through initiatives like Working Smarter, were not substantiated in regards to revenue, savings or direct benefits to students.

Howle called on the state legislature to intervene by limiting the percentage of nonresidents the University can enroll each year and by basing the state’s annual appropriation to the University on that requirement.

The report recommends the UC track spending from state funds for programs that do not relate to educating students and reevaluate those programs each year to determine their necessity to fulfill the UC’s mission. The report also recommends the University look for alternate sources of funding for those programs.

In regards to ensuring equalized per-student funding among campuses, the report recommends including actual enrollment numbers in its “rebenching” formula and adopting a methodology to update the weighting system to take into account cost of instruction, among other suggestions.

UC President Janet Napolitano responded to a draft of the report in early March, saying that some assertions of the report rushed to judgement. She also called the assertions unfair and unwarranted because the report didn’t consider other reasons for increasing nonresident enrollment, like state budget cuts and maintaining academic quality.

Napolitano claimed the UC has exceeded its responsibilities under the California Master Plan for Higher Education by offering admission to every California applicant who meets minimum requirements.

Napolitano wrote that she thought the audit focused predominantly on undergraduate education costs, when the UC also has costs associated with its research and public service commitments it cannot reduce easily.

Napolitano also said she thinks that some of the new data reporting that the audit calls for is burdensome, of little use and contradictory to the recommendation to reduce the number of administrative staff.

The audit was called for by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee last year to investigate concerns over UC enrollment, executive compensation and budget.

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Ryan Leou | Assistant News Editor
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