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How the University of California can remain one of the state's most valuable assets

UCLA One of the most important jobs of the University of California is to educate California students. That's why it receives billions of dollars each year from the state.

So it is understandably worrisome to see a story like the one in The Times on Tuesday saying that UC is boosting its enrollment of out-of-state students. Of the freshmen admitted to UC's campuses for next year, more than 18% were from other states or countries,  up from 14% in 2010 and 11.6% in 2009. Why the increase?  Because out-of-state students pay $23,000 more in tuition each year than Californians,  and the university desperately needs the money.

Not all of those out-of-staters will end up attending; the university says it expects about 10% or less of the new freshman class to be from out of state. But even that is higher than in the past, and each spot that goes to someone from far away could, theoretically, have gone to a local applicant. According to William Tierney, director of USC's Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis, accepting more out-of-state students threatens to diminish opportunities for Californians.

So why, then, does the L.A. Times editorial page think it's a good idea?

Because at the end of the day it's one of the least bad options. As UC faces hundreds of millions of dollars in new budget cuts, it must choose among unappealing program reductions and service cuts that could damage its quality and reputation beyond the breaking point. If it ends up driving off the university's most talented faculty members or hiking tuition beyond where it's already been hiked, or closing entire campuses, it could harm itself irreversibly.

Increasing the percentage of out-of-state students, however, is reversible. When times get better (assuming they do get better), it can begin to shift the numbers back, accepting more in-state students without having damaged the quality of the institution. The fact is that the UC system does not accept nearly as many out-of-state students as some other public universities do. Michigan, Virginia and Colorado all enroll more than 30% of their undergraduates from out of state.

The University of California is one of Californian's most valuable assets. It should stay that way.


To save UC, cut enrollment

UC gets smarter about budget cuts

President Mark Yudof's five-year plan for UC

Cuts to higher education: The Master Plan turncoats

Patt Morrison: Interview with University of California President Mark Yudof

--Nicholas Goldberg

Photo: Students study at UCLA, where 29.9% of freshman admission offers went to non-Californians. The system says it needs the extra cash they pay. Credit: Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times


Comments () | Archives (5)

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Makes sense. If you are worried your children will be excluded, figure out how to better fund the schools. Although, its hard to ignore the fact that the UC execs/regents are grossly overpaid.

Milan Moravec

University of California Chancellor Birgeneau is NOT doing his job for CALIFORNIANS. Cal. Chancellor’s gross over spending, poor decisions: recruits (using California $) out of state $50,000 tuition students that displace qualified Californians; spends $3,000,000 for consultants to do his & many vice chancellors work; pays ex Michigan governor $300,000 for lectures; Latino enrollment drops while out of state jumps 2010; tuition to Return on Investment (ROI) drops below top 10; NCAA places basketball program on probation.

Chancellor Birgeneau’s ($500,000 salary) fiscal track record is dismal indeed. He would like to blame the politicians, since they stopped giving him every dollar asked for, & the state legislators do share some responsibility for the financial crisis. But not in the sense he means.

A competent chancellor would have been on top of identifying inefficiencies & then crafting a plan to fix them. Able oversight by the UC Board of Regents and the legislature would have required him to provide data on inefficiencies and on what steps he was taking to solve them during his 8 year reign. Instead, every year Birgeneau would request a budget increase, the timid regents would agree to it, and the legislature would provide. The hard questions were avoided by all concerned, & the problems just piled up to $150 million of inefficiencies….until there was no money left.

It’s not that Birgeneau was unaware that there were, in fact, waste & inefficiencies during his 8 year reign. Faculty & staff raised issues with Birgeneau & Breslauer ($400,000 salary), but when they failed to see relevant action taken, they stopped. Finally, Birgeneau engaged some expensive ($3,000,000) consultants to tell him & the Provost what they should have known as leaders or been able to find out from the bright, engaged people. (Prominent east-coast University accomplishing same at 0 costs)

Cal. has been badly damaged. Good people are loosing their jobs. Cal’s leadership is either incompetent or culpable. Merely cutting out inefficiencies does not have the effect desired. But you never want a crisis to go to waste.

Increasing Cal’s budget is not enough; honorably fire Cal. Chancellor Birgeneau,

John B Christensen

If UC gives enrollment "slots" to out-of-state applicants over in-state applicants, they are denying the benefit of attending a California University to those that are residents and whose parents rightly pay taxes to receive the benefit of the California university system. This opinion misses a key point: Now qualified California applicants can't even match the out-of-state tuition cost for University of California, and thousands of highly qualified students are often forced to both pay higher fees AND the travel costs/family disruption, etc. associated with attending a university in another state that is also accepting more out-of-state students. This interstate "busing" with no net economic benefit to the nation could be and should be put to a stop now by simply accepting students at the state subsidized rate structure and another "less fortunate, but still better off" group at the out-of-state rate. Students would then have the opportunity to seek financial support or choose a different university or campus with the U.C. system.


The University System is only an asset to California if it adds value to the people of California. If you have an asset in your personal portfolio that only benefits your broker you get rid of it. For the University System to be an asset to California it must benefit Californians. Educating the people of Oregon, China, Colorado, Mexico, etc. is nice for them but does very little, in the long run, for California.


"Increasing the proportion of students from outside California is, frankly, the best of a bunch of bad choices" I really enjoy the fact that you inadvertently quote Nietzsche's idea of passive nihilism--a choice from a list of negatives, where the choice is affirmed as the least negative--in your defense of uc policies. As Nietzsche is the inadvertent default drive, you might note that in the uc system as a whole, its arts and humanities in particular, there is not one Nietzsche scholar to be found in the system. As to the incessant jargon of uc as the best, the greatest, ditto ditto ditto, you might ask how achieving the ranks of associate (tenured) and full professor require less productivity from faculty than one generation ago. This is the way of Capital: always pay more for less with a gun to your head.



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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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