Thursday, September 2, 2021






        Up until this summer, it has been very sensible for the last decade to ask who the University of California really belongs to.


        But as students return to UC’s 10 campuses after the last year’s pandemic absences and remote classes, they and future applicants for slots at the system’s most desired locations can be assured that UC belongs more now to Californians than it has for quite a while.


        This is one result of the surprising flood of money that arrived in state coffers as the coronavirus pandemic began to ease last spring.


        The question of who UC really belonged to arose during the Great Recession that began about 13 years ago, as the university system started admitting more and more out-of-state and foreign students to help make up funding cuts inflicted by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state legislators of the time.


        Over the first 12 years of this boom, foreign and out-of-state enrollment boom at UC – some of whose campuses are regularly listed among the top five public universities in America and the world – rose from 5 percent to more than 21 percent. UC administrators led by former President Janet Napolitano conceded the $26,000+ in extra tuition paid by each child of an Arab oil sheik or a Chinese multi-millionaire or government-subsidized student from any of myriad other places had a lot to do with their vastly increased numbers on campuses like Berkeley, UCLA and San Diego.


        Meanwhile, the proportion of highly-eligible California high school graduates who actually went to UC fell despite supposed guarantees of a slot somewhere in the university.


        Around the beginning of 2015, administrators began to take heat over this. One result: they upped in-state admissions by about 5,000 annually for a couple of years.


        But now comes the unexpected post-pandemic windfall, fueled in part by federal coronavirus recovery funds. In the budget bill passed last June, legislators earmarked some of this newly-found cash to make UC still more Californian.


        In a year with record numbers of applications, especially to Berkeley, UCLA and San Diego, legislators decided to let UC admit more than 6,000 more California kids than usual, essentially bumping the same number of out-of-state and foreign applicants for the 2022-23 academic year. The university will get $1.3 billion each of the next few years to substitute for what it otherwise would have pocketed from non-resident tuition.


        It amounts to a reduction in the non-resident student population at the three big campuses from 22 to 18 percent, still enough to give each campus geographic variety, but enabling thousands of Californians to stay closer to home. Many students qualified for UC but not admitted over the last few years have ended up at private colleges or in other states.


        It will end up seeing about 4,500 more California students getting the education they need and desire, and might contribute to stemming the outflow of recent college graduates that contributed to California’s first-ever population loss last year.


        California State University campuses were not left out. They will get enough funds from the windfall to expand enrollment by about 9,400 in a year when numbers at community colleges have dropped somewhat.


        One legislative sponsor of the expanded higher education budget called the new money “transformational.” Said Democratic Assemblyman Kevin McCarty of
Sacramento, “We will be funding the largest expansion of higher education access in a generation.”


        Gov. Gavin Newsom loved the move, which

mollified one set of disgruntled Californians who might have taken their resentment out on him – parents and other relatives of rejected UC applicants.


        There is also money for new classroom buildings and new student housing, those funds to be split among UC’s nine undergraduate campuses.


        Extra money headed to the Cal State system will allow Humboldt State in Arcata to become a polytechnic college, focusing on science, technology and math and let Cal State Northridge create a center to guarantee racial and ethnic equity in the same STEM areas.


        This is a move that’s difficult to criticize because it can’t help making California’s universities more useful to the Californians who fund them.



    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit


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