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UC to cap nonresident student enrolment

The University of California System will introduce a cap on international and out of state undergraduate students in 2018/19, it has announced.

UC Berkeley campus, University of California, USAUC Berkeley has the highest number of non-resident students across the University of California system, and is one of four campuses that will have a cap of more than 18%. Photo: Flickr/John Morgan.

"This policy strikes the right balance between our commitment to putting California residents first and the significant benefits that out-of-state students bring"

The cap will vary from campus to campus according to the number of nonresident students – which includes both international and domestic students from outside California – currently enrolled. It will not force any UC campuses to reduce the proportion of undergrads they take from outside the state.

Instead, they will either have to adhere to an 18% cap, or to not exceed 2017/18 levels of nonresident students – whichever is greater.

“That kind of surge was bound to create pressures, and we have to be responsive to California taxpayers”

The new measure is therefore much less drastic than the 10% cap proposed in a controversial bill earlier this year.

The bill did not make it past the senate, but was instead replaced by a provision in California’s Budget Act requiring the university to “adopt a policy that specifies a limit on the number of nonresident students enrolled” in order to receive a tranche of state funding.

The university will receive $18.5m to support enrolment growth of 2,500 California resident undergraduates in 2017/18 on meeting this requirement, which “reflected, in part, a general expectation that the university should continue to place a priority on serving California resident undergraduates”, according to the university’s Office of the President.

Nonresident students currently account for more than 18% of undergraduates at four of the university’s 10 campuses – UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, UCLA and UC San Diego – which will be allowed to maintain the level of nonresident students enrolled in 2017/18 the following year.

The limit will therefore likely be highest at UC Berkeley, where almost a quarter of undergraduates came from outside the state in 2016/17.

All other campuses will be subject to an 18% cap.

“We believe this policy – a culmination of extensive consultation with stakeholders – strikes the right balance between our commitment to putting California residents first and the significant benefits that out-of-state and international students bring to the university,” Claire Doan, UC’s Office of the President spokesperson, told The PIE News.

The move is unlikely to trigger a reduction in international student numbers at the university, according to Eddie West, director of international programs at UC Berkeley Extension, but it “may make admissions at some of the more selective UCs more competitive”.

“But it may also be a boon to other campuses who aren’t yet at the cap, as international students and those who advise them might rightly consider their admissions prospects there better,” he predicted.

The policy was not wholly surprising, according to West, given the “especially rapid growth in international enrolments” on some campuses.

“That kind of surge was bound to create pressures, and as a public institution we have to be responsive to all stakeholders, especially California taxpayers,” he said.

Nonresident students made up 16.5% of UC’s undergraduate cohort in 2016/17 – considerably lower than the average of 27.9% at Association of American Universities public member institutions in 2015/16.

Some UC programs specifically targeted to international students will be exempt from the cap, including UC Berkeley Extension’s Berkeley Global Access program.

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