UC regents debate enrollment limits on students from other states and countries, approve Berkeley chancellor

University of California regents expressed an array of concerns Thursday over a controversial proposal to limit the number of undergraduates from other states and countries to 20% of total systemwide enrollment.

The regents, meeting in San Francisco, also unanimously approved Carol T. Christ, a longtime UC Berkeley administrator and professor, as the next chancellor to lead the renowned but troubled public research university.

Regents initially were scheduled to vote Thursday on the nonresident proposal, which UC unveiled this month to ease public controversy over its admissions practices and clear the way to receiving $18.5 million in additional state funding that is tied to adoption of a limit.

UC’s proposed cap allows for some growth — nonresidents currently make up 16.5% of the system's 210,170 undergraduates — except at UCLA, UC San Diego and UC Berkeley. Those three campuses would be allowed to maintain but not increase their current percentages, which are higher than 20%.

But regents delayed a vote until May and will continue discussions until then as some critics call for lower limits and others for no quota at all.

The debate Thursday underscored the deep concerns over the proposal.

Regent Sherry Lansing fretted that the limit could deprive campuses with fewer out-of-state students, such as UC Riverside and UC Santa Cruz, of future opportunities to attract them and the extra tuition dollars they bring in. James Chalfant, chair of the UC Academic Senate, echoed that concern, saying the proposal would create “tiered campuses” because some would be able to bring in more nonresident tuition dollars than others.

“We don’t want to reinforce a policy of haves and have-nots … and put them in competition with each other,” Chalfant said.

Regent Eloy Ortiz Oakley said the UC system should first make a better case to the state about its funding needs. He referred to nonresident tuition as “sugar water” and public funding as “protein,” to stress the need for the state to beef up the UC system with more money.

Others wanted to know how nonresident students affected campus diversity. Regent Gareth Elliott rejected adopting any nonresident policy at all.

But UC President Janet Napolitano reminded regents that state lawmakers required the UC system to set a limit before they released additional funding.

“Somehow, we’ve got to navigate our way through this and end up … with the right answer,” she said.

The 10-campus system quadrupled its nonresident enrollment between 2007 and 2016 to make up for steep state budget cuts following the recession. Although UC also increased the number of California students by 10% during that time, the growing reliance on nonresidents sparked a backlash from California families and legislators.

Chancellors from UCLA and UC San Diego told regents how the additional money from nonresidents — who pay about $27,000 more in annual tuition than their California counterparts — has helped pay for more faculty and courses as well as needed building repairs.

UCLA, for instance, received $145 million in nonresident tuition last year, which helped it make up significant state funding cuts, said Chancellor Gene Block. The money helped UCLA offer more courses, which reduced the average time needed to graduate to less than four years. It also helped UCLA manage rising costs for employee benefits and salaries.

“This really made up the hole in UCLA’s budget,” Block said.

Regent Richard Blum added that the university richly benefits from international students who study at UC campuses and return home to become successful business and political leaders. At a UC Berkeley reunion in Hong Kong, he said, 500 people showed up.

“It’s amazing how many people — successful leaders, heads of companies — still talk about Berkeley and may give back one way or another,” he said.

On other matters, the regents were firmly united.

They approved Christ as the new UC Berkeley chancellor “enthusiastically and unanimously,” as Board Chairwoman Monica Lozano put it after the vote.

Christ, currently Berkeley’s interim executive vice chancellor and provost, will take the helm July 1. She will succeed Nicholas Dirks, who announced his resignation last year following widespread criticism over his handling of sexual misconduct scandals, the budget deficit and what many regarded as a distant and disengaged leadership style.

Christ, 72, will earn the same salary Dirks did: $531,939 annually. She has spent more than 30 years at Berkeley as a professor and administrator and also served as president of Smith College for a decade.

Napolitano told regents that Christ, the 11th chancellor and first woman to lead the 149-year-old campus, was “a remarkable person, a visionary and a first.”

“Dr. Christ has a way with making things better. She builds strong relationships, and trust, with diverse groups and diverse individuals, and then forms consensus and finds solutions,” Napolitano said.

Blum said Christ’s collaborative style and intimate knowledge of Berkeley’s culture was just what the university needed.

“Berkeley is a troubled campus in terms of people learning to get along,” he said shortly before the vote. “It is not going well, and we needed somebody from the inside who understood the place to straighten it out.”

Christ, speaking to reporters after the vote, said she would focus on Berkeley’s multimillion-dollar budget deficit, the student housing crunch, undergraduate education and faculty issues to help the renowned public research university through what she called its worst difficulties in 50 years.

Christ said she would aim to enhance Berkeley’s tradition of “excellence and access.”

“It is Berkeley's DNA,” she said.

In other actions, the regents approved changes to rules on faculty sexual misconduct, including eliminating time limits to file complaints.

They also approved the UC system’s first policy that would impose sanctions on regents found to have violated university rules on ethics and sexual misconduct, even outside their university roles.

teresa.watanabe@latimes.com

Twitter: @TeresaWatanabe

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