With the drastic budget cuts in the State of California, its higher education system is suffering: Programs are being removed, professors are being let go, and getting into classes has become increasingly more difficult. Many changes have been implemented in efforts to salvage the University of California’s system financially, but with many unfavorable ramifications.
While no perfect solution exists, increasing the number of out-of-state students in public universities is the least detrimental method of counteracting the radical budget cuts.
Out-of-state tuition is significantly higher than in-state tuition. This is true in public colleges throughout the country. According to Anne K. Walker in The Chronicle of Higher Education, average out-of-state tuition in 2006 was $13,164, almost $8,000 more than in-state tuition. Ten years prior, the difference was only about $4,500. This rise has continued: UC tuition as a whole has increased tremendously in the past few years for both resident and nonresident students due to the state budget cuts. Out-of-state students now pay $23,000 more per year than in-state students. With such a large difference in tuition per student, even a small number of students paying the higher tuition can expand the overall funds immensely.
Much controversy accompanies the proposal to increase the number of out-of-state students at UC campuses, however. The major argument against it is that in-state admission would decrease significantly. According to a report last month in UCSB’s Daily Nexus, many Californians protest that because they pay taxes that support the public universities, they deserve priority in admissions.
Yet the taxpayers reap major financial benefits at the university, paying roughly a third of the tuition of nonresidents—and their benefits should only exist in that financial sense. Admissions to what is one of the top universities in the world should be based upon the qualifications of the applicant, not on whether or not he or she lives in the state. In-state students already have the advantage of the decreased grade-point average eligibility requirement of 3.0 as opposed to 3.4 for out-of-state students. Taxes are merely financial; therefore, the advantages should remain primarily financial, as well.
Aside from economic relief, more nonresident students will increase competition and diversity, both of which will better the university. An increase in competition will increase the quality of students as whole, bringing the university’s quality and potentially its ranking to a higher level. Bringing in students from all over the country and even the world brings together differing ideas and cultures. The university experience relies upon this diversity as part of the educational experience, opening the eyes of students from all areas and communities.
Although out-of-state student increase is not the only opportunity to increase the system’s funds, the harmful outcomes of other options for rescuing the UC system’s finances substantially outweigh the consequences of this option. A common alternative for battling the budget cuts, even among lower education systems, is removing programs and professors. The detrimental effects of these cuts are evident among all university students. Class sizes are enormous and acquiring a spot in these classes is still difficult to come by. As I sign up for my fall quarter classes at UC Santa Barbara, I am watching classes fill rapidly and sympathize with the incoming freshmen who will struggle to get the classes they need. As a consequence, students are forced to stay for summer school or even a fifth year of undergraduate schooling. I have experienced this firsthand and have also seen some extremely beneficial programs on the ballot to be cut from the budget. These reductions are only getting worse. An increase in out-of-state students would have positive effects on the students as a whole, while the alternatives produce exclusively detrimental changes for the students.
Accordingly, the universities have already begun to increase the out-of-state student population and plan to continue with this method. According to the Los Angeles Times, 11.6 percent of the students admitted to a UC campus in 2009 were from another state or country. In 2010, this number increased to 14 percent, and is presently at 18.1 percent. At UC Berkeley and UCLA, these percentages are almost doubled. Even with the recent increases, these numbers are still fairly low and have room for further growth.
With such overall economic hardship, the budget cuts in the university system are understandably a problem without an ideal solution to satisfy all parties. Everything comes down to a single explanation: There is simply not enough money. Given the circumstances, it becomes a choice between the lesser of two evils. No suggestion to aid the system financially comes without adverse effects on other aspects of the educational system. Instead of ridding the university of professors and programs necessary for success, we can bring in a more diverse student population, consequently bridging the budget gaps with the least amount of damage.
Instead of weakening the UC system in its entirety, we must seize the opportunity to strengthen and develop the institution of public higher education as we solve the fiscal dilemma.