While the state audit’s report was not necessarily surprising, many were caught off guard by just how stark UC’s enrollment policy is. The policy has far-reaching implications on a local level, impacting everything from city of Davis land use policies reflecting shortages in available rental housing to anger in the minority communities, and ultimately it feeds into student dissatisfaction which is driving calls for the chancellor’s resignation or dismissal.
On Wednesday, Assemblymember Kevin McCarty responded to the audit by issuing a statement, “I introduced Assembly Bill 1711 to cap the number of non-resident students attending the University of California. While the UC has insisted that non-resident students do not supplant resident California students, the audit released today shows that not only is the UC wrong, but the problem is much more severe than even I feared.
“This audit validates many of the concerns that have been raised in countless hearings regarding the University of California. The UC has not only rationed access for California’s students who are qualified and even exceeded admission requirements under California’s Master Plan for Higher Education, but over the last 3 years, the UC has admitted 16,000 non-resident students with lower academic scores than the top half of admitted resident students. This policy has had a disproportionate effect on underrepresented students who are finding it harder to access the UC System.”
He added, “In light of this, I will continue to push for AB 1711, which is currently in the Assembly Higher Education Committee. With this measure and budget efforts to follow key audit recommendations, I’ll look to tie state budget appropriations to a non-resident and resident enrollment ratio. Further, I’ll look at strengthening the bill to set academic standards for non-resident students.”
Back in January Kevin McCarthy, who represents West Sacramento in addition to parts of Sacramento, and Assemblymember Jose Medina (D-Riverside), chair of the Assembly Higher Education Committee, introduced AB 1711.
As Assemblymember Medina put it, “Out-of-state and international students enhance college campuses by bringing a diversity of experiences and perspectives. However, enrollment of nonresident students cannot come at the expense of access for Californians.”
In order to increase tuition revenue in the face of state funding shortfalls, the audit finds that “the university implemented two key procedural changes that encouraged campuses to maximize nonresident enrollment.”
UC’s efforts, the auditor wrote, “resulted in an 82 percent increase in nonresident enrollment from academic years 2010–11 through 2014–15, or 18,000 students, but coincided with a drop in resident enrollment by 1 percent, or 2,200 students, over that same time period.”
The math here is clear – the net result of this policy was an additional student enrollment of nearly 16,000. That meant universities like UC Davis were adding students in order to maintain funding levels.
As Janet Napolitano pointed out, “The State of California faces a dilemma that the draft report does not fully acknowledge. To maintain the quality of a public university system that virtually all agree is the finest in the world, sufficient funding must be found. Sources for this funding are limited.”
With state funds off the table and student tuition unpopular, nonresident tuition was the answer that they sought, where “the burden of which falls entirely on non-Californians.”
To counter this, last fall the state legislature offered the UC system an additional $25 million if they added another 10,000 in-state students, 5000 immediately and 5000 in 2018.
The result of these policies is playing a huge role in the local debates in Davis. With UC Davis adding students, the city of Davis is facing a rental housing crisis that only figures to get worse, particularly since the solution offered UC is not to decrease enrollment but rather to increase in-state student enrollment.
But these policies handed down at the UC Regent and State Legislative level have local implications and UC Davis has thus far not been willing to accommodate the increased enrollment with more on-campus housing options.
As Councilmember Lucas Frerichs called it, rental housing “may even be the biggest issue facing Davis right now.”
Like others, he argued, “Make sure that the university puts some of the housing, if they’re going to continue to grow, put some of that housing on campus.”
But the question is how the city can convince UC Davis to step up in this respect, and what the city will do on their own end in the meantime. Councilmember Brett Lee offered that he “think[s] we should also build some additional apartments in the city. We have several proposals before us – most of the problems I have with them are size and scale. They can be scaled down. There haven’t been any large apartment complexes in quite some time.”
A housing crunch is not the only issue created by this policy.
The audit noted, “While underrepresented minorities—which the university considers to be Chicanos/Latinos, African Americans, and American Indians—represent 45 percent of California’s population, they make up 30 percent of the university’s overall undergraduate population.”
The audit found, “The university’s recent emphasis on enrolling more nonresidents has hampered its efforts to meet its own and the Legislature’s desire that the university’s student body reflect the diversity of the State.”
Recently, black students have protested on UC Davis and called for, among other things, the university to bring black student enrollment up to levels that are more reflective of their percentage of the state population. Students have also pushed for more efforts to recruit students and faculty and retain those students who enroll.
But their small numerical population has led some students to suggest, including the former ASUCD President, that they feel “unsafe,” in addition to the expression of lack of comfort in the Davis community. This has led to the call for the creation of “safe spaces” – a controversial concept.
The students articulately laid out their concerns: “Black representation at the UC has not increased from where it was twenty years ago. And while the rate of Black high school graduates in California has increased, there has only been a .3% increase in the enrollment of Black students into UC Davis since 2007.”
They continue, “Furthermore, since the passing of Prop 209 in 1994 that banned affirmative action, Black students have been underrepresented in the admissions pool with respect to our application numbers.”
They argue, “With low graduation rates (33% within 4 years for the 2010 cohort) and a small presence (3.2%), there is a critical need to retain and recruit Afrikan & Afrikan American students at UC Davis. Compared to Afrikan & Afrikan American students, white students’ performance level is 200% greater, demonstrating a distinct need to provide additional support.”
These complaints are directly rooted in UC Policies that have emphasized nonresident recruitment – which is seen as financially lucrative over recruitment and retention efforts of underrepresented populations – specifically: African American, Hispanic and American Indian.
The audit notes, “Although the university stated that nonresident enrollment serves to help residents by exposing them to students from geographically diverse backgrounds and perspectives, the campuses’ efforts to recruit nonresidents divert already limited resources from the recruitment of residents.”
Finally, the general discontent of the students feeling the crunch of tuition increases and general dissatisfaction has played a huge role in the occupation of Chancellor Katehi’s office on the fifth floor of Mrak Hall.
And, while some continue to argue that the occupation is being conducted by only a small group of students, that group of students has gained the support of various faculty members, ASUCD, labor groups and other voices on the campus and in the community.
From land use policies to general dissatisfaction, the audit report and the implications of the UC Policy on nonresidents and enrollment growth are having a huge impact on the local community.
—David M. Greenwald reporting