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Out of state? Come to UC

A record number of freshmen will be from elsewhere in the U.S. and from abroad.

July 15, 2010|Larry Gordon

A record number of out-of-state and international students are planning to enroll as University of California freshmen in the fall, the result of a controversial effort by the revenue-hungry university to garner the much higher tuition that nonresident students must pay.

More than 8% of UC's projected 37,151 freshmen will be from out of state or overseas, up from 6% for the school year just ended, according to figures released Wednesday. The change is concentrated mainly at UC Berkeley and UCLA, with Berkeley showing the most dramatic shift. That campus expects non-Californians to constitute 22.6% of its freshman class, double the proportion for last year, the figures show.

The enrollment numbers were discussed at a UC regents meeting in San Francisco, at which university leaders also took a tentative step into the world of Internet-based education, approving a pilot program of undergraduate online classes, if private funding can be found.

California students and families have expressed concern that some in-state students are being squeezed out as UC's nine undergraduate campuses pursue the $22,000 that each nonresident must pay on top of regular student fees. But UC officials say that the university admits as many Californians as state funding allows and that the extra money from out-of-staters helps subsidize classes and campus services for Californians.

"All campuses were more conscious this year of nonresident enrollment, and three of the campuses -- Berkeley, Los Angeles and San Diego -- were especially effective in enrolling a larger number of nonresidents," said Susan Wilbur, UC's director of undergraduate admission.

A UC commission planning for the university's future has suggested raising the share of non-California residents to 10%, an idea that alarms some politicians and educators even though it would be modest compared with some other states. Prestigious public universities in Colorado, Michigan, Virginia and elsewhere regularly enroll more than 30% of their freshmen classes from beyond their state borders.

However, Patrick M. Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, said UC could be hurt politically and economically if state legislators come to see nonresident tuition as an excuse to cut the university's funding even more.

"It doesn't help to build your case in the state to be revenue-chasing around the country and the world," he said. "I understand the financial constraints they are in, but this should have been one of the last resorts, not one of the first."

At UCLA, the number of freshmen from California and other U.S. states will be about the same as last year, but the number of freshmen from abroad will increase to 364, which is 207 more than last fall. As a result, non-Californians are expected to make up about 15% of UCLA's freshman class, up from 11.4% last year.

Thomas Lifka, UCLA's associate vice chancellor for student academic services, said UCLA wants both the revenue and the cultural and intellectual diversity the foreign students bring. He said public resentment about the shift "doesn't take into account that the state is not meeting its responsibility to subsidize students."

UC Berkeley reduced its number of in-state freshmen by about 900, to 4,059.

The UC system hoped to cut in-state freshman enrollment by about 1,500 this year, after a drop of about 2,300 last year in response to reduced state funding. As part of that effort, it adopted the widespread use of admissions waiting lists for the first time. However, demand is so strong that the number has declined so far by just 180 students from last fall, to 34,116. Wilbur said that students' decisions about college attendance remain in flux through the summer and that she anticipated that final numbers in September will be close to the target figure.

In contrast, in response to new UC policies that encourage community college transfers, such transfers increased by 2,220 students this year, to 17,472. About 90% are from California.

Among California freshmen, Asian Americans once again form the largest ethnic group, with 40.7% of the class. White students account for 26.2%, with Latinos at 23.1% and African Americans at 3.9%.

In other business, the regents gave informal approval to a proposal that could move the university more fully into online education. The plans calls for UC to raise about $6 million in private donations to launch as many as 40 all-online undergraduate courses, an experiment that could be widened in the future. UC's extension programs now have about 1,250 online courses, but the new ones would be credit-bearing versions of undergraduate classes that are now overcrowded.

Some UC faculty leaders have opposed more ambitious online plans, saying they worry about course quality, displacement of professors and the rocky experience of some other universities with Internet education.

But UC Berkeley law school Dean Christopher Edley, a leading advocate of online education at UC, said the proposal would help the university cut costs, gain revenue and expand access to students whose family or job responsibilities keep them from attending traditional classes.

He promised that faculty would have control over the plan but stressed the importance of moving quickly. He called it "a question of how well we perform as an engine of opportunity in California and for the country."

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larry.gordon@latimes.com

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