Tough negotiations prompt UC enrollment to rise

University of California sign at west end of campus.The dust has settled from Gov. Jerry Brown’s protracted budget negotiations with University of California president Janet Napolitano — to the benefit of 10,000 additional students greenlit for the UC system by the 2018-2019 school year.

Meeting in San Francisco, the UC Board of Regents authorized a plan, which emerged from those negotiations, to allow the University of California to admit “5,000 more California undergraduates next year — and keep tuition flat,” as the San Francisco Chronicle reported. “The long-term funding plan will keep tuition at the level it was in fall 2011. Tuition will rise again in fall 2017 with increases pegged to inflation, about 3 percent. UC will also accept an additional 2,000 California students in fall 2017 and 3,000 more in fall 2018, for a total of 10,000 new students.”

Separately, Regents approved a scheme to expand UC Merced enrollment by around 50 percent. “UC Merced, a 10-year-old Central Valley campus built to meet the soaring demand for a UC education among Californians, will gradually expand its enrollment from roughly 6,700 to about 10,000 as the campus is expanded,” according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Competing priorities

Both parties to the talks had to make some compromises. Adding students increased costs that, Napolitano had complained, were already rising as a result of housing, health and administrative expenses. The UCs already draw some $3 billion from California’s coffers, according to the Chronicle, despite 28,500 out-of-state students paying about triple the tuition and fees of in-staters. Going forward, the paper added, “the state will pay $25 million to bring in-state enrollment to 180,000 next year, allowing UC to hire more faculty and increase student support services,” while “UC will reduce costs, including moving students more quickly through school.”

For the dramatic enrollment expansion, in fact, Brown had state legislators to thank. He and Napolitano “already had reached a tentative agreement to cover UC operations at its existing head count,” as the Sacramento Bee editorial board noted, “but state legislators wanted more California kids — particularly more black and brown kids — to get a shot at a UC diploma. And Napolitano’s negotiating tactics had made them mad. So they told her that if she starved spending enough to enroll an extra 5,000 freshmen and transfers in 2016, she’d get a $25 million bump, enough to reimburse UC for about half of the expansion.”

Shifting burdens

Sure enough, as the Mercury News noted, “lawmakers earmarked $25 million in the state budget for next year’s UC-wide expansion, a sum that university officials say will cover half of the cost. UC aims to cover the other half through increased private donations to the university’s operating fund and higher tuition for out-of-state students, among other sources.” In fact, out-of-staters will eventually lose financial aid altogether under the plan. The savings stemming from the elimination of out-of-state financial aid are a major source of the funds needed to accommodate enrollment growth,” the Daily Californian reported. “Projected savings from phasing out the financial aid program are $14 million, according to the budget proposal.”

In an email to the publication, UC spokesperson Dianne Klein said, “Providing financial aid to some out-of-state students is a ‘long-standing practice’ and that about 3,000 out-of-state undergraduates in the UC system received institutional financial aid in 2014-15. Approximately 900 of those undergraduates attended UC Berkeley.”

In what appeared to be an extra effort to ensure that increased enrollment would not be concentrated in already larger or relatively less-prestigious campuses, the deal ensured that “all nine UC campuses that educate undergraduates will enroll more California students,” according to a statement issued by the University of California. “Low-income students from outside the state who are enrolled will not be affected by the plan to phase out UC grants,” the Los Angeles Times reported, “but future students will no longer receive them.”

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