The possibility of another big wave of growth is causing its own set of problems
As an elite school that educates the masses and pumps money into the economy, UC San Diego is rarely the target of strong criticism. But a lawmaker unloaded last week, accusing UCSD and its sister campuses at Berkeley and Los Angeles of betraying Californians.
Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) told the Union-Tribune that the UC system — and those three campus in particular — “focused on admitting out-of-state students at the expense of in-state students. They deny that. But if you just look at the numbers it’s pretty clear.”
Over the past decade, the La Jolla campus added 10,400 students, more than half of whom came from outside of California, notably China.
Education experts say UCSD and other schools made the move to offset an erosion in state funding for the UC system. They were forced to try to pay bills and bankroll growth by greatly increasing the number of students they admit from other states and nations. Those students pay more than twice as much in tuition.
Pradeep Khosla, who has been UCSD chancellor since 2012, denies that California students were put at a disadvantage. “No out-of-state (student) ever, during my time here, displaced a Californian,” he said in an interview. “Not once.”
But facing mounting pressure from parents and students unable to secure UC berths, the Legislature adopted a budget on June 28 that orders UCSD, UCLA and UC Berkeley to make a roughly 4 percent cut in the number of undergraduates who come from outside of California. That will collectively free up 4,500 slots for California residents at those campuses over the next five years.
The state will pay $184 million to cover the higher tuition money that would have come from out-of-state students.
“We’re doing it in the fastest way possible, which is to buy out the out-of-state students and replace them with California students,” said Ting, chair of the Assembly Budget Committee.
The state is dealing with a big target.
At UCSD, international enrollment hit a record 8,451 in 2020 — or 21 percent of the student body. It’s the highest figure in the UC and one of the highest in the U.S.
The figure will drop to at least 18 percent, and maybe to 17 percent, under the new state budget.
UCSD has huge programs in science, technology, engineering and the life sciences. The cut probably won’t hurt, because research in those areas is largely done by graduate students, not undergrads.
But the cuts will be disruptive. And a second, potentially bigger challenge, could be coming for UCSD, which is nearing capacity.
The new budget also proposes to expand undergraduate enrollment in the UC system by 6,230 in 2022-23. The plan, which has yet to be funded, specifies that all of those students must be California residents.
The UC system says this is the largest proposed increase in California-resident undergraduates since 2003-04.
Those 6,230 students would be spread among the UC’s nine undergraduate campuses. But a disproportionate number would likely go to La Jolla because the campus has more room to grow.
For financial reasons, all of this is causing unease at UCSD, whose nearly 40,000 students make it bigger than the community of Rancho Bernardo.
The campus raised a record $365 million in private donations during the fiscal year that ended on June 30. But the pandemic cost the campus about $270 million in everything from lost dorm and dining fees to patient service billings at its hospitals and clinics.
And Khosla says the school didn’t receive full funding for about 2,000 of its students last year due to the way the UC system allocates money.
All of this has occurred during breakneck growth. Even during the pandemic, enrollment jumped by 840.
“I’m trying to have my infrastructure catch up with the students,” said Khosla, an engineer. “Student growth is easy. It happens instantaneously. Infrastructure takes three to five years to build.”
The campus opened a 2,000-bed residential complex last year. But UCSD’s housing stock dropped by 2,000 due to the pandemic, which forced the school to reduce the number of students it puts in many rooms.
Another 2,000-bed complex is under construction. But it won’t be ready until 2023, by which time UCSD could easily have an additional 1,000 students.
The UC has been experiencing extraordinary enrollment pressures — partly because of its lofty reputation and partly because the state has reasonably good high school graduation rates. Many students meet the system’s tough entrance requirements.
Interest rose further in May 2020, when the UC system announced that it will not longer consider SAT or ACT scores while making admission and scholarship decisions. The UCs ended up receiving a record 249,855 applications from students seeking to enroll in fall 2021 as freshmen or transfers.
The number of prospective freshmen who applied to UCSD — a top-10 research school — increased by 18,326, pushing to a record 118,360.
It won’t be known until October how many of the students who were accepted actually enrolled, and how many of them are from other states or nations. But analysts say that lots of California students who qualified for a spot won’t get one — something that makes many taxpayers and parents angry.
“I know many well-qualified students who got denied from the University of California but got admission in highly selective private schools such as Carnegie Mellon, UPenn, and such universities...” Justin Thomas of Rancho Bernardo said in an email to the U-T, speaking as a taxpayer.
“Why should a parent need to be double-taxed — income tax for California, and private tuition for their children!”
Mick Soriano, a UCSD graduate who lives in Rancho Penasquitos said, “I would have little problem with shutting out-of-state students out entirely. But to be reasonable I’d be OK with a maximum acceptance rate of 5 percent.
“Driving around UCSD, you see non-stop construction of new facilities ... Because of this and other reasons, I don’t believe that the UC system needs the out-of-state money that they claim they need.”
Assemblyman Ting gets annoyed when people suggest that the Legislature has been stingy when it comes to the UC.
“We have increased the UC’s budget every single year since I’ve been in the Legislature, starting in 2012,” he said. “There are clearly ways that the university could have become more efficient.”
Over a longer period, state support is down. In the mid-1970s, about 18 percent of the state’s budget was spent on higher education. By 2016-17, the figure was 12 percent, and the UC system had taken the big hits, with funding per full-time equivalent student dropping from $23,000 to $8,000, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
There’s also tension over the way the UC has handled public funds. Ting pointed to a 2017 state audit that concluded the UC Office of the President had “amassed substantial reserve funds, used misleading budgeting practices, provided its employees with generous salaries and atypical benefits, and failed to satisfactorily justify its spending on systemwide initiatives.”
That outraged lawmakers, some of whom also became upset by complaints from the parents of high school students that the UC system was overlooking their children in favor of out-of-staters who could pay higher tuition.
Some of the attention inevitably focused on UCSD, with its high international enrollment.
“Will we find enough Californians to replace the non-residents? The short answer is yes,” Khosla said. “We will certainly find enough Californians. I am not losing sleep over that.
“They could be on the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) side. They could be on the non-STEM side. I want my school to be more balanced and holistic.”
Source: The San Diego Union - Tribune