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University of Calif. targets out-of-state students

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  • AP
    Angered by proposed education budget cuts

SAN FRANCISCO >> The University of California is looking for out-of-state solutions to its money problems.

Faced with sharp cuts in state funding, the 10-campus system is ramping up its campaign to recruit high-paying students from other states and countries, even as record numbers of California students seek a UC education.

For a second year, UC officials in April reported a significant increase in out-of-state and international students admitted for the coming fall term, with the biggest jumps at its most selective campuses in Berkeley, Los Angeles and San Diego. Accepted students must notify schools by May 1 if they plan to enroll.

UC charges students from outside California nearly $35,000 in annual tuition, about three times what state residents pay.

But the university’s push to attract more nonresidents is fueling resentment among California students and families who have worked for years to gain admission to one of the country’s top public university systems.

Kevin Arriola, a senior at Lincoln High School in San Francisco, says he’s disappointed he was only accepted at one of the four UC campuses where he applied, Santa Cruz. He wonders whether he and his classmates were squeezed out by out-of-staters.

"It’s probably a reason why a lot of students weren’t able to get into UC schools," said Arriola, 17. "They’re probably looking to find more students that are willing to pay more."

UC is not the only public university system trying to boost out-of-state enrollment as it grapples with rising costs and shrinking government support. Public universities in cash-strapped states such as Arizona, Texas and Washington have also announced plans to import more students.

While state colleges have been steadily expanding nonresident enrollment for years, the economic downturn has accelerated the trend, experts say.

"From a national perspective, it’s almost a collective breach of the promise that states had made to their residents," said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director at the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. "It has become a fairly obvious reaction at public institutions that are attempting to cope with state budget cuts."

Flagship universities in states such as Vermont and Wisconsin have long recruited nonresidents because they’re in slow-growth states that don’t produce enough high-caliber students to fill their campuses.

But the University of California serves a state with a growing young population, plenty of highly qualified students and strong demand for higher education.

"We have huge educational demands in California," said Pat Callan, who heads the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. "It gives the impression that the university is turning away from California because the bucks aren’t here like they used to be."

UC stands to lose at least $500 million in state funding and possibly much more as California seeks to close another massive budget shortfall. The California State University system and California Community Colleges are also facing deep cuts.

Newly released UC data show that 18 percent of admitted students for fall 2011 were nonresidents, up from 14 percent last year and less than 12 percent two years ago. They made up 23 percent of admissions at San Diego, 30 percent at UCLA and 31 percent at Berkeley.

UC reported a slight increase in the number of California residents accepted to at least one of the UC campuses where they applied, but more were rejected by their first- and second-choice schools, and more were placed on wait lists.

Jane Suh said she’s surprised her son Tyler, a top student and musician at Napa High School, didn’t get accepted at Berkeley or UCLA. He’s now considering private colleges in other states.

"I had really hoped that he would have gotten into UCLA or Cal so we would have that option if we didn’t have the money to send him to private school," Suh said. "Because it’s our school system, if our children want to go to it, they should have first-priority access."

Out-of-state students enroll at a lower rate than state residents so university officials expect them to make up less than the 10 percent UC-wide target recently set by school administrators. Currently, only about 6 percent of UC undergraduates are from outside California.

UC officials say out-of-state students increase campus diversity and bring in additional revenue that improves the quality of education for all students. Nonresidents still face a higher academic standard than residents, but not as high as they did before, said Pamela Burnett, interim director of undergraduate admissions.

"The out-of-state students are paying their own way, and there are seats those students can take advantage of," Burnett said. "We would be admitting more California residents if there was more state funding to admit them."

Gerna Benz, co-owner of the consulting group Bay Area College Planners, said he is seeing more high-achieving students rejected by UC campuses that may have accepted them a few years ago, leaving families angry and frustrated.

"They’re exasperated," Benz said. "They feel it’s not fair that their taxes aren’t even enabling their students to get a public education."


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