visiting colleges

At a recent family gathering, a good friend pulled me aside to ask a question about the University of California system.  Having read that UC Berkeley admitted a record number of non-California residents, she wanted to know whether or not the UCs remained a viable option for her own children who would be applying to college in California as in-state students.  Resisting the urge to playfully remind her that her oldest was only five, I started addressing one of the biggest questions college admissions consultants are often asked:

Are state schools increasingly admitting more out of state and international students at the expense of qualified state resident applicants?

Many public institutions look to out of state or international students to meet their enrollment targets, especially in less densely populated states than California.  The University of Iowa, for example, maintains a long tradition of looking favorably upon non-resident applicants, a group that constitutes nearly half their freshman class.

But population demographics aren’t really what my friend meant when she asked her question. She wanted to know if non-resident California applicants were taking spots away from qualified Californians.  The implication being that the state is turning its back on the California Master Plan, a heretofore near sacred commitment to higher education access for qualified state residents.  To answer my friend’s question, we need to talk money.  Or in the case of the Golden State, the lack thereof.

California colleges look to non-resident students to diversify revenue stream

For those of us who live in California, hardly a day goes by that we do not hear dismal state budget forecasts.  At the risk of bandying about an oft use phrase, picture a “fiscal cliff.”   The drop in education appropriations can only be described as precipitous.  With nearly two and a half billion in state budget cuts in recent years, the University of California system receives thirty percent less state funding today than it did in 2007.  While the UC system maintains it can both physically accommodate and educate more students, it lacks the funding to support more California residents.  Indeed, currently the system enrolls eleven thousand California students without requisite state funding.

To make up the difference, California and other cash-strapped states, look to non-resident students as a way to diversify their revenue stream.  Non-California residents pay nearly three times the rate of tuition, which counteracts the trend of shrinking government support. To underscore this point, one need only look at enrollment statistics.

California non-resident college student statistics

In 2009, only twelve percent of students in the UC system were classified as non-residents.  Three years later, that number rose to twenty-three percent.  In one year, from 2009 to 2010, Berkeley saw its number of non-resident admits increase from fourteen percent to twenty-seven percent, which comprised nearly a third of their freshman class.  For the fall 2012 cycle, eight of the nine UC campuses increased their non-resident population.  Only Berkeley, which faced sharp criticism for previously admitting a third of their class from non-resident applicants, reduced their numbers.

UC administrators will argue that the fiscal reality demands this type of action and that the increased revenue actually subsidizes California students.  They’re right.  Until the system receives more state funding to educate state students, they must ameliorate their fiscal issues in some way.  But what are the real consequences for California residents, particularly highly qualified applicants?

Applications from state residents continue to increase and budget restraints prevent the system from increasing class sizes.  California residents may not find it harder to get into the system, but they will likely face increased competition for the most selective UC campuses, where a significant segment of the freshman population is increasingly composed of non-residents.

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Written by College Coach
College Coach® is the nation’s leading provider of educational advising, offering expert guidance from the best college admissions consultants on the college admissions and finance process. Our goal is to help each student maximize his or her chances of success through services focused on their personal desires, goals, individual strengths, and accomplishments.