Public Higher Education for the 1%? Non-resident Recruitment Practices in the UC

24 Apr

It’s public knowledge that along with tuition hikes, pay cuts, and layoffs, the University of California’s plan for absorbing budget shortfalls includes increasing enrollment of non-resident students. “Non-residents,” or out-of-state and international students, pay about $36,000 per year in tuition alone, or nearly three times what in-state California resident students pay.* This strategy is worrisome enough to middle- and working-class Californians for whom public education is the only affordable option for college. But a recent email detailing a recruitment program that deliberately targets non-resident students may deepen suspicions that the UC is on the road to becoming an institution exclusively for the 1%.

The UC-Santa Cruz Office of Admissions recently contacted division deans via email to announce a program that encourages them to make personal recruitment phone calls especially to admitted non-resident students. Participating deans are provided a confidential list of admitted students, some tips and reminders about making calls, and a username and password. After making the calls for which they are signed up, UCSC then urges them to log onto “an on-line feedback/tracking mechanism … to ensure that callers can easily note details of the call and the Admissions Office can provide each division with an outcomes report once all calls have been completed.”

UCSC Dean of Social Sciences Sheldon Kamieniecki forwarded the admissions office request to social science department chairs, with the following note: “I have volunteered to make 20 calls to social science students. Perhaps you and/or your faculty will want to do telephone calls as well.”

The pressure to secure non-resident enrollments is coming from UC President Mark Yudof himself.  UCOP has set a target of 10% non-resident enrollment system-wide for fall 2012, promising penalties for campuses that fail to meet their individual enrollment targets. UC-Berkeley has set a goal of 20% non-resident enrollment at its flagship campus.** With precious resources on the line, admissions directors are worried they may not meet UCOP’s targets if too few non-residents accept UC offers.

By all accounts, the UC’s stepped-up recruitment efforts are already showing problematic results in terms of shifting campus demographics. In the last two years, non-resident admissions have nearly doubled to 18,846 for fall 2012, up from 9,552 in 2010.  This means that nearly one in four (23%) students admitted to the UC this year is not a California resident.***

While UC officials insist that the increase in non-resident enrollment is not displacing California students, undergraduate admissions director Kate Jeffrey admits that California students “are being squeezed out of some individual campuses, maybe their first choice.”**** Qualified California residents who do not gain admission to the UC of their choice are being referred to UC-Merced.*****

If UC administrators are to be trusted, college-bound Californians will see little impact from the new admissions policies. But what’s puzzling is: neither will the university’s total revenue. UC’s current non-resident enrollment is at 6% and increasing that rate to 10% would only bring in another $160 million in tuition. While this is not pocket change, it is merely a drop in the bucket for a system that has been struggling with billion-dollar budget cuts for years.

Perhaps the most striking conclusion to draw here has to do with the UC’s shifting priorities, which both reflect and reproduce the growing economic inequality in this state and country. The UC is rapidly on its way to transforming into an institution for the 1%–offering admission only to those who can afford to spend $50,000+/per year to go to college. While some new UC admits are chatted up by deans and department chairs, it’s worth asking how many California kids on financial aid are receiving the same treatment.

*“State Budget Cuts Threaten California’s Master Plan”

**“UC admits more nonresidents, record number of freshman applicants”

***“University of Calif. nonresident Admissions soar”

****“Out-of-state admissions increase sharply at UC, UCSD”

*****“State Budget Cuts Threaten California’s Master Plan”

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