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Blog Post · November 19, 2014

How Does UC Compare in Enrolling Nonresident Students?

Record-high numbers of out-of-state students are enrolling in the UC system. Estimates show that one out of every five freshmen starting at a University of California campus this fall will be a student who attended high school in a state outside of California or outside of the U.S.

Nonresident students pay about three times the tuition of a California resident. Since the state’s deep cuts to higher education budgets, the UC system has increasingly relied upon nonresident student enrollment as a source of revenue. In fact, Senator Kevin de León recently suggested raising tuition on nonresidents to increase revenue for UC. Several other legislators and members of the public have criticized the increased recruitment and admission of nonresidents. All of which raises a question: How does UC’s enrollment of nonresident students compare to that of similar universities in other states?

Among public, four-year research universities nationwide, only UC Berkeley and UCLA are above the national average in the proportion of students paying out-of-state tuition. The UC average is well below the national average for similar universities. In fact, the UC system claimed six of the bottom 17 spots, as the following chart demonstrates.

Looking at the trend over time, the UC system has enrolled relatively low levels of nonresident students compared to other similar universities, but that average has been increasing sharply since 2010. However, nonresident enrollment is also increasing at other top-tier, public universities throughout the nation—likely because of budget woes in other states. In the most recent two years, there has been no national data for a comparison, but UC provides the number of students intending to register each year, which is likely an upper bound for nonresident enrollment. The number of nonresident students has continued to climb, especially at UC Berkeley and UCLA, where they are estimated to make up 29.8% and 30.1% of 2014 freshmen enrollees, respectively. But even with these increases, nonresident enrollment is still likely lower at UC Berkeley and UCLA than it is at many prestigious public four-year universities, and the UC system is likely well below the national average for similar schools.

figure 2UC President Janet Napolitano has stated that she has considered limiting the number nonresident students in the UC system. But instead of setting system-wide limits, and relying on some universities to have fewer nonresidents to balance Berkeley and UCLA, the president and board of regents may consider setting enrollment limits for nonresident students for each university in the system. The full board of regents meets Thursday to vote on a plan for raising tuition at UC. If UC cannot increase revenue through tuition increases or from the state, they may seek to enroll more nonresidents, as they have done in the past. Even though the UC system has a relatively low proportion of nonresident students compared to the nation, such a move would still likely generate controversy.

Figure Notes: (BOTTOM CHART) Data are from National Center for Educational Statistics Integrated Postsecondary Education System (IPEDS) and the UC Office of the President. Solid lines indicate data retrieved from IPEDS; dotted lines indicate estimated enrollments based on UC Office of the President’s reported Statement of Intent to Register (SIR). The percent of nonresident students represents the percent of all first-time entering students in fall 2012–2013 who had graduated from high school within in the previous 12 months. The IPEDS sample includes universities classified as having very high levels of research, and includes all UCs except for UC Merced, but I have included Merced in the sample and related figure. Non-UC and UC averages are weighted by entering class enrollment. Universities are not required to submit nonresident counts to IPEDS in odd years, and some do not. Those odd year values are imputed from the even years surrounding them.


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