Educating the World in California

The tradeoffs with both the University of California limiting the acceptance of out-of-state students to 15.5 percent and unlimited acceptance of out-of-state students are difficult to accept. Non-California residents pay an estimated $56,073 for tuition and on campus living costs while California residents pay $31,365. An increased acceptance of California residents leaves the issue of compensating for the loss of $24,708 per student who resides on campus. While it would it be ideal if the state provided the UC system with more funding, a more realistic response would likely raise the cost of tuition for both in-state students and out-of-state students. However, the increased acceptance of international students for financial reasons seems to ignore the larger fact that the UC system lacks the necessary funding to keep tuition costs low. This creates a challenge for the UC system to effectively serve the Californian student community it was designed to educate. While the University of California website says, “UC undergraduates come from all over California, and they work hard to make it to college,” this phrase ignores those who also worked hard in Californian high schools but are edged out of various UC schools due to the UC’s interest in accepting out-of-state students for financial reasons.

Despite this, out-of-state and international students add an element of diversity that helps in-state students broaden their horizons. Having grown up in California among like-minded individuals, it is all too easy to forget about other cultures and societies and their perspectives. Diversity brings about a positive impact to the UC and UCSD communities as students learn about other cultures and have the opportunity to interact with students from foreign countries, which is not often present in high school.

Undergraduate enrollment statistics released by UCSD are illustrating trends that are a cause for concern. Eighty percent of the undergraduate student population is from California. 5.1 percent come from out of state, whereas 14.9 percent are international students. The number of international students at UCSD has risen a whopping 684 percent over the past 10 years while San Diegan enrollment has dropped 5 percent. Over the past six years, enrollment from students living in places such as San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and other California locations have all fluctuated in enrollment percentages, with the the only notable exceptions being out-of-state and international enrollment. Out-of-state enrollment increased from 3 percent to 5 percent over the period 2010–15 with a 198 percent increase from 2005. Even more staggering is its international enrollment which has risen from 5 percent to 18 percent from 2010–15. This data shows that serving the interests of international students continues to be an important priority for the UC system in order to access higher tuition payments.

The UCSD Guardian reported earlier this year that Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed state budget plans are expected to provide an additional $356 million to the UC system, a 4.7 percent increase from last year. While Brown has made promises to keep in-state tuition constant over the the next two years, out-of-state students may not be so fortunate. In the UC 2016–17 Budget Plan, a $25 million grant from the state to support undergraduate enrollment appears to be a step forward until considering an increased enrollment of 5,000 more Californian undergraduates by 2016–17 Fall quarter.

An element lost in this budget plan is the quality of living and education. While it may be possible to squish more students into UC schools, seeing quadruples replace triples in on-campus housing will not provide the ideal environment for students to learn, much less enjoy their college experience. While focusing on cost is key, paying attention to the space allocated for student living spaces is also important.  The UC college system should ask if it should house more students rather than asking if it can. 

In an ideal world, the UC system would be free to all California students, and hardworking students would be able to reap the benefits of attending a UC campus. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and each decision, whether to increase enrollment space or limit out-of-state student enrollment, entails tradeoffs. Increasing enrollment space often comes at the price of creating cramped conditions for student living and offers a subpar college experience. Limiting out-of-state enrollment removes a significant source of income for the UCs. With over one-fifth of students at UCSD being out-of-state or international students, perhaps it may be time to curb the growth of out-of-state and international student enrollment from increasing another 684 percent over the next 10 years.