Wednesday, December 2, 2009

UCSD Faculty Letter on Nonresident Admits

Compact with California
UC San Diego
December 12, 2009

“As colleges and universities shift toward revenue generation through academic capitalism, they invest less in historic democratic missions of providing increased access and upward mobility for less advantaged populations of students.”

--Sheila Slaughter and Gary Rhoades, Academic Capitalism and the New Economy (2009)

Dear Colleagues:

We believe that this campus needs to maintain its commitment to the people of California. As we contemplate the future in the midst of the worst financial crisis in several generations, UCSD must remain true to the fundamental principle that it is a public university charged first and foremost with educating young people from every community in our state. As the California State Constitution reminds us: “The University of California shall constitute a public trust” (Art. IX, Sec. 9).

With regard to the proposed reforms of our current undergraduate admissions policy, we feel strongly that all changes being considered must be weighed against potential negative and perhaps unintended outcomes. Specifically, any decision to increase the number of non-resident students should not contradict our commitment to serving California students, especially those from historically underrepresented communities (HURM). We agree strongly with the UC Berkeley Committee on Admissions, Enrollment, and Preparatory Education (AEPE): “Any proposal to increase nonresident enrollment must demonstrate that the increase will result in at least as much, or more, opportunity for California residents, not less.”

We write to you because we are concerned that the campus leadership, pressured by concerns over revenue streams and growing deficits, may be rushing into decisions that will have long-term negative consequences for California residents, especially HURM students. In what follows, we explain what the possible consequences could be and offer a series of mitigating strategies.

Context for increasing the number of non-resident students

There is no debate about the severity of the budget crisis. We understand that next year’s situation will be worse once the furlough program and and one time loans have run their course. The question we want to pose, however, has to do with what has been called the “diversity cost” of moving too quickly to the non-resident tuition model.

We submit that in addition to the budget crisis there is an on-going equity crisis on our campus. Despite an elaborate infrastructure of “diversity” initiatives and a highly developed rhetoric about UCSD’s commitment to diversity, the numbers of HURM students (African Americans, Mexican Americans, Native Americans) are among the worst in the UC system and the sense of isolation among many HURM students is as great as it was forty years ago. A report by the Black Student Union states: “Currently, the probability of UCSD students interacting with a Black student on campus is slim to none because there are such a small number of Black students that make up the student population. Therefore, this crucial element of cultural and social enrichment among UCSD students is extremely difficult” (Do UC Us?, 2009).

Chief Diversity Officer Sandra Daley recently referred to this crisis: “This is an emergency. The most important thing that we can do is recognize that we are in the midst of war. If we do not hold together, in this moment, in this state, we have lost a tremendous opportunity to initiate change. Every second counts. No second can be wasted” (This Week @ UCSD, 11/23/09).

Possible benefits of increasing the number of non-resident students

Despite the many denials that money is driving policy, most calls for increased non-resident students are based on the need for new revenue streams. But how much does increasing the number of non-resident students really help?

If we assume that each non-resident student brings $22K to campus, an increase of 1,000 students would provide an additional $22.5M. According to the UC Annual Financial Report for 2008-2009, the total UCSD campus budget is $2.6B. Therefore, the gain from non-resident tuition (NRT) would amount to less than 1% of our total budget. Even if we were to subtract the Medical Center from the total campus budget, the amount gained from NRT is approximately 1.2% of the total campus budget.

But as Andrew Dickson of SIO has shown, the $22.K “profit” per student may be a pipedream. He points out: “If a campus can replace in-state students with out-of-state ones while being allowed to keep its "base" funding from the State general fund, then it could seem quite profitable initially (about $22,500 per student).” However, Dickson adds, the likelihood that the State will continue to cut the marginal cost of instruction for more resident students means profit shrinks to about $12,000 per non-resident student. Add to this the fact that NRT does not return automatically to individual campuses but rather runs through UCOP where it can be levied or redistributed and the panacea of an increase in non-residents looks far less realistic.

In our opinion, the increase in non-resident students quite simply is a financial band-aid on a terminally ill patient. The overall impact on instruction and research budgets would be negligible. In order to make a major budgetary impact, the number of non-resident students would have to be multiplied many times over with a resultant sharp decline in California students.

But can’t the 1,250 overenrolled and unfunded California students whose numbers will not be replaced after they graduate simply be replaced with non-resident students? This is a clever solution but one that simply hides the displacement of California residents and one that does not prevent the negative consequences outlined below. Of course, the important point to be made here is that it is the decrease in State support that is really displacing California students. But rather than sneaking non-residents in the back door and claim nothing has changed, the University should be honest--California students are going to be displaced.

Likely costs of increasing the number of non-resident students

In their report to Chancellor Birgeneau, the UC Berkeley Undergraduate Task Force wrote: “Decreasing CA resident students will, at least in the short term, likely result in a less diverse student body—an outcome that the Task Force finds appalling, and which runs counter to core values of the campus community” (7/31/09). We believe UCSD will experience the same negative impact.

According to our analysis, there are at least five potential negative consequences of increasing the number of non-resident students:

• Decline in number of first-generation and HURM students

• Justifiable anger on the part of California’s families; decreased public support

• Likelihood that the State will continue to defund the UC system

• Increased costs associated with recruitment and yield of non-resident students and potential decline in standards

• Long-term change in public character of UCSD

Projections completed by both the UCSD and UCB admissions committees indicate clearly that an increase in non-resident students will decrease the number of first-generation college and HURM students. The Berkeley campus expects that its number of Chicano/Latino freshmen would fall from 681 to 580, African Americans from 121 to 105, and first-generation would decline from 681 to 580. At UCSD, similar outcomes (starting from a far worse position) can be expected.

Once it is made public that out-of-state students are taking seats from California residents, the public will be justifiably angered and the UC system will face a major public relations problem. At the same time, legislators already inclined to defund the University will point to NRT revenues as a reason why they can continue to cut funding. In effect, the move to higher non-resident admits lets the State off the hook.

At present, the approximate yield for non-resident students at UCSD is only 13%. Funding would have to be made available for increased yield activities in order to achieve even the modest gains in revenue expected.

We can also expect that UCSD will have to lower academic standards in order to attract out-of-state students. This is what occurred when the University of Michigan radically increased the number of non-residents to approximately 35%. An unforeseen consequence was that Michigan’s rankings in U.S. News and World Report began to drop. As Professor Sylvia Hurtado, the current chair of BOARS has warned: “Simply adding non-resident undergraduates to help cover budget shortfalls will likely accelerate declines in educational quality some believe are already occurring” (4/22/09).

Finally, the public character of the UC system will continue to deteriorate. The move to increase non-residents will make the student body more affluent and less representative of California. This has been the outcome at the University of Michigan where over 50% of freshmen in 2003 came from families with six-figure incomes in a state where only 13% of working families earned as much. We share the concern expressed by the AEPE Committee at Berkeley: “Any such increase would become permanent, regardless of whether the State returned to a more appropriate level of per-student funding, thereby fundamentally altering the character of the university that prides itself on excellence, affordability, and public access” (10/21/09).


In the recent past, the meaning of “diversity” at UCSD increasingly has become detached from the issue of “equity.” As California quickly approaches a minority majority population, meaningful “diversity” in a university context ought not be defined as an unprioritized range of superficial “differences” but rather as a commitment to serving communities whose young people have been denied a college education due to a history of economic exploitation, institutionalized racism, and lack of access to a quality K-12 education.

As the Black Student Union report indicates, UCSD continues to have the lowest number of African American students in the system and less than half the number of Mexican American students than other small campuses such as UC Santa Barbara. UCSD must ensure that any changes made to its undergraduate admissions policy are not driven primarily by budgetary concerns, do not jeopardize our contract with the citizens of California, and do not further decrease our HURM numbers.

In order to mitigate the possible negative consequences should UCSD’s faculty and Senate committees decide to increase the number of non-resident students (both out of state and international), we propose the following measures:

• We feel strongly that the total percentage should not exceed 10% (currently 5%).

• If non-resident students are to displace California students, they should replace only the bottom 3-5% of California admits.

• Any additional non-resident students admitted to UCSD should be held to the same admissions standards used for California residents.

• A percentage of the revenue raised by non-resident tuition should be designated as restricted funds for financial aid for California residents.

• A percentage of the revenue raised by non-resident tuition should be directed toward curricular and campus reforms designed to increase the yield of California HURM students.

• The campus should move from comprehensive to holistic review in admissions.

We agree with the chair of BOARS who wrote to the Chair of the Academic Council: “We fear this new pressure on campuses to increase non-resident enrollment may limit California resident access to UC, and as a result, damage UC’s primary historic land grant mission—to develop the talent of working people within the state to sustain its unique economy” (4/22/09).

We urge you to let the Chancellor, the Academic Senate’s Committee on Admissions, the Chief Diversity Officer, the Task Force on the Budget, the Committee on Diversity, the Diversity Council, and all Senate leadership know your opinions on this matter. We attach below the names of current chairs of those committees so that you can contact them directly.

Please feel free to circulate this letter to interested colleagues.


Jorge Mariscal (Literature)
Jim Lin (Mathematics)
Ross Frank (Ethnic Studies)
Daniel Widener (History)
Brad Werner (Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics)

People to contact:

Chancellor Marye Anne Fox:
John Eggers, Chair of Admissions:
Sandra Daley, Chief Diversity Officer:
Bill Hodgkiss, Task Force on Budget:
David Borgo, Diversity Committee:
Robert Continetti, Diversity Council:

Recommended reading:

1. UC Berkeley Admissions Committee Response to Task Force Report on Increasing Nonresident Enrollment

2. Chris Newfield, “Can doubling out-of-state students save Berkeley’s budget” (9/1/09).

3. Josh Keller, “As Berkeley Enrolls More Out-of-State Students, Racial Diversity May Suffer” (11/4/09).

4. Rotem Ben-Shachar, “Budget cuts prompt UC to decrease in-state enrollment” (11/25/09).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very Interesting!
Thank You!