Admired as the “public ivies,” the University of California school system remains world-renowned, yet structurally unfair. In turning their back on tax-paying Californians, these flagship state universities have fortified their favoritism towards out-of-state applicants.
In sync with all University of Wisconsin-Madison students, the Common Application was an extensive part of my high school senior year. However, being born and raised in Los Angeles, so was the UC application.
Coming from a town where college is more of an expectation rather than a choice, I was continually preached on the merits of the UC schools. At a glance, these public institutions are among the highest ranking in the country, offered at affordable in-state tuition prices. These attributes alone were enough to rule out-of-state options as an irrational consideration for many of my classmates.
Applying to the UC schools for myself and every California resident I knew was an unquestioned right of passage.
Nonetheless, each year the number of applicants seeking a coveted UC spot increases, and each year the number of rejection letters far surpasses the number of acceptances. The pool is ridiculously flooded with qualified applicants to the point where over half of the UCs have average student GPAs above 4.0. With demand far exceeding supply, the UC system can only guarantee a spot to the top 9% of California students, leaving the remaining 91% in the dark.
The kicker for Californians is that virtually each UC prefers out-of-state applicants, whose higher tuition cost benefits the school. Schools like UC San Diego uphold a 51% out-of-state acceptance rate compared to the 26% admission rate for state residents. Given two students with identical applications, differing only in their residency, it can be logically reasoned that the out-of-state student will be admitted each time.
At the top universities in every other state, the story is reversed. The highly ranked University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill maintains a hefty 52% admission rate for in-state students compared to the meager 19% rate for out-of-state students. Other top public institutions, like the University of Virginia, hold comparable divides, accepting in-state students at more than double the rate.
Chancellor Rebecca Blank openly discussed UW-Madison's commitment to in-state applicants in a 2019 statement from the Office of the Chancellor. According to Blank, UW-Madison was created for Wisconsin residents pursuing higher education, and in keeping with its founding, the universities’ top concern remains its state residents.
Ironically, the UCs were likewise founded to provide college education to state residents pursuing higher education, a priority that has been seemingly thrown out the window.
As inscribed on the University of California website, the UCs were created “on a simple, but revolutionary idea: That college should be available to everyone ... serv[ing] the needs of students and communities across a large and geographically diverse state.”
The solution for thousands of California students has been to look at higher costing out-of-state options. The message does not resonate easily with dutiful California parents whose taxes have subsidized UC schools.
One would like to think that Californians who suffer the country's highest tax rates would at the very least benefit from the state’s public schools.
In 2017, the University of California school system attempted to rectify the situation, creating an out-of-state enrollment cap at 18%. Still, numerous UC schools, including both UCLA and UC Berkeley, disregarded the quota during the rollout year. Rather than forcing the schools to recall out-of-state acceptances, the UC system decided to maintain the status quo, freezing out-of-state acceptance numbers at the current rates that favor out-of-state applicants.
Essentially, overriding the admission quotas went unpunished. If anything, the overly flexible policy seemed to represent a plea to appease California residents without actually changing.
Presently, the California State Legislature is pushing for a stricter out-of-state enrollment cap at 10%. UC administrators publicly oppose the new policy, arguing for increased funding to enroll more state residents without reducing out-of-state numbers. While the UCs need to cater more toward California students, it remains true that simply substituting state residents for out-of-state residents would lower school revenues.
At present, the notorious UC system can either continue to drive bright California students out of the state or return to their roots and prioritize Californian higher education.
In the meantime, we owe it to the next generation of California’s high school students to lower the UCs from their pedestal. The UCs no longer represent the “golden standard” of public education, for the age-old notion that each hard-working California student can gain entry into these schools is an outdated facade.
To those high school seniors awaiting their soon-to-come admissions decisions, best of luck in the lottery pool.
Em-J Krigsman is an Opinion Editor for The Daily Cardinal. She is a sophomore studying Political Science and Journalism. Do you think the University of California public schools should prioritize their state residents? Send all comments to email@example.com
Em-J is an Opinion Editor for The Daily Cardinal, and is also a member of the Editorial Board.