California auditor finds UCs favor out-of-state students in acceptance

Aidan Backus, Editor-in-Cheif

Words — perhaps distorted by disgust, self-doubt, or tears — echo through the halls of Bear Creek in the spring. “I got rejected from my dream school,” they say, or, even worse: “I got in, but I can’t afford it.” According to California’s auditor, students who were trying to get into the University of California but didn’t might have someone to blame other than themselves.

According to the audit, between 2005-06 and 2015-16, the admission rate of resident (California) students fell by 19 percent while the nonresident admission rate increased by 16 percent. Meanwhile, tuition rates for resident students soared, from $6,141 in 2005-06 to $12,240 in 2015-16. Accounting for student fees and other costs, residents should expect to pay $13,400 in tuition and fees. At comparable public schools in other states, the mean cost for residents is $10,579. These values do not include housing and textbooks.

Because nonresidents pay significantly more in tuition and fees — as high as $35,928 — the auditor, Elaine M. Howle, alleges in her report that the University knowingly raised nonresident admissions rates at the cost of California students to increase revenue.

UC President Janet Napolitano has long maintained that rising fees and nonresident acceptance rates are needed to increase revenue, as the state of California’s funding for the UC system leveled off during the Great Recession even as university expenses rose. The state of California would have to expand its revenue (perhaps through a tax hike) to afford an increase in UC funding.

“I would rather take higher taxes,” senior Shaan Bhalaru said. “Tuition rates are already increasing and people can’t keep up.”

Napolitano replied to the audit in a letter to Howle, claiming that “to suggest … that UC has ‘disadvantaged’ California students is entirely unfounded” and that while UC enrolls 15.5 percent nonresidents, many comparable state schools admit over 30 percent. Prior to the recession, UC enrolled only five percent nonresidents.

A UC press release dated April 4 noted that the number of California students admitted increased by 14.7 percent for the 2016-17 school year and attributed this increase to the end of the recession.

According to the audit, $886 million (including $403 million from nonresident tuition) is spent on expenses that are not evenly distributed “per-student,” to which Napolitano responds that the UC system has a much larger purpose than undergraduate education, including research and professional training, which justifies these costs.

The audit also criticizes administrators’ lavish salaries, including Napolitano’s $570,000 salary, over three times Gov. Jerry Brown’s salary. Among other staffing expenses, UCLA pays its football coach, Jim Mora, $3.5 million.

“In that same year [as the budget cut], the University provides a general salary increase across the board that was $639 million,” Howle said at a hearing in the state Capitol. “Personally, as a taxpayer, I have a problem with that.”

Napolitano responded that UC uses “annual reviews of employee trends” to determine salaries, and such high pay is therefore justified.

Whether Howle’s allegations prove true or not, the falling acceptance rate has clear consequences at Bear Creek. Over the past 10 years, Bear Creek’s UC acceptance rate has dropped from 76 percent to 61 percent, while California’s overall UC acceptance rate has dropped from 77 percent to 62 percent. The two values plummeted together; statistical analysis shows that 75 percent of the difference in Bear Creek’s acceptance rate can be explained by difference in California’s acceptance rate.

The top nine percent of Bear Creek students get some respite from increasing competition, at least: it is UC policy that if a student in the top nine percent of his year at school or in the state of California but was rejected from all campuses he applied to, that student will be given a spot at another campus (usually UCs Riverside or Merced) if there is space left over.

Of the top nine percent (41 students) of the Bear Creek Class of 2016, 28 of those students were accepted to at least one UC campus of their choice, 11 did not apply to any campuses, one was rejected from a top UC but offered admission at a lower-tiered campus and declined, and one was rejected from all campuses, apparently against UC policy, but did not appeal in time.

College and Career Center adviser Janet Hobart advises students who were offered admission at a lower-tiered UC than they’d hoped for to consider that option.

“Any UC would be a top choice,” Hobart said, “But it really depends on the individual student. Go visit [the alternate campus], and see how it feels.”

One bar to attendance that top Bear Creek students do not get respite from is the cost of attendance. One such student, senior Justin Layman, will likely attend UC Santa Barbara, but is unsure if he will receive sufficient grants and scholarships to afford the cost. If Layman attends UCSB, he will have to pay $18,000 per year out-of-pocket.

“I’m trying to steer clear of loans because I’m not sure there is a way to pay them back after I graduate,” Layman said. “It’s just a dark cloud that looks over me: there’s no guarantee that I’ll get a high-paying job right away.