U of California Audit Sparks Concern Over Non-Resident Numbers

(Photo: Matt Wade, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Matt Wade, Creative Commons)

According to a state audit released this week, the University of California has put resident students at a disadvantage through its recent push to recruit students from out of state and overseas, which has caused a drop in the number of state residents who enroll.

The University has remained consistent in its position that it uses the extra fees paid by nonresident students to make up for budget cuts implemented during the recession, as well as to underwrite thousands of slots for Californians that are no longer supported by the state.

The 116-page report discovered that academic standards were set lower for nonresident students during the admissions process in order to admit more of them, since these students pay triple the fees of resident students.  In addition, it suggests that the school had not created a cost of instruction to make decisions concerning tuition.

The audit says the school did not look into budget savings before implementing the new enrollment strategy, and brings some spending choices into question such as high executive compensation and a low-interest home loan program for faculty and senior administrators.

“It’s a matter of priorities,” State Auditor Elaine Howle said in an interview. “It’s a matter of the university making a commitment to California high schoolers who want to be admitted.”

The report suggests the school system implement stricter admissions requirements for nonresident students, place a cap on their enrollment, and increase their focus on recruiting students from California, particularly African Americans, Latinos, and other minority students.

The audit was requested over a year ago by Assemblyman Mike Gipson after noting the total enrollment of students from other states and countries reach 15.5% of the total undergraduate enrollment at the school up from around 5% eight years ago, writes Teresa Watanabe for The Los Angeles Times.

The University system has denied all findings reported in the audit and dismissed the recommendations given to the school, including a suggestion that a limit be placed on the number of nonresident students the University can enroll.  In response, the University has released its own report in which it disputes accusations made against its admissions policies and finances, writes Alexei Koseff for The Sacramento Bee.

In a letter responding to the audit, UC President Janet Napolitano referred to it as “disappointingly pre-baked” and “unfair and unwarranted.”  She added that auditors did not look at the fact that nonresident students who pay a higher tuition account for $728 million within the University budget and allowed the school to accept more in-state students despite the budget cuts made during the 2008 recession.

“Indeed the draft audit understates and undermines the efforts of thousands of UC faculty and staff who have sustained the University’s reputation, accessibility and affordability during a period when state funding was cut by about one-third,” she wrote.

Meanwhile, the audit has increased the stakes in an ongoing political controversy over whether the increase in nonresident students will help or hurt residents of the state.