UC campuses move to recruit more out-of-state students

From Boston to China and across the Internet, University of California campuses this year are taking unprecedented and potentially controversial steps to recruit out-of-state and international students for the extra revenue and geographic diversity they bring to the cash-strapped system.

Most of the nine UC campuses that enroll undergraduates report sending admissions staffers more often this year than in previous years to visit high schools, college admissions fairs and other events outside the state. Some are taking these steps for the first time, pushed by the state's budget crisis and the chance to garner the extra $23,000 in annual tuition UC charges each non-resident student.

The push for out-of-state students comes as UC also tries more traditional ways to boost its revenues. This week, the university's regents will vote on a proposal to raise student fees for undergraduates 8% for the next school year. The board also is scheduled to discuss the plan to increase out-of-state enrollment across the system.

"It's still all new for us," Thomas Lifka, UCLA's associate vice chancellor of student academic services, said of the far-flung recruiting efforts. This summer, for the first time, UCLA admissions officers visited 10 cities around the country, including Chicago, Boston, Atlanta and Honolulu. UCLA representatives also traveled this year to China, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore, he said.

The Santa Barbara, Davis and Irvine campuses say they have mounted serious out-of-state recruitment efforts this year for the first time. UC San Diego and UC Santa Cruz are concentrating mainly on using the Internet and social media sites to contact high-achieving students from other states. UC Merced, the newest and smallest of the UCs, is focusing on international students enrolled at nearby community colleges, although a representative also recently visited the Middle East.

"This year, we are doing more than we have ever done" in out-of-state efforts, said Walter Robinson, director of undergraduate admissions at UC Berkeley, which enrolls the UC's highest percentage of non-Californians, about 22% of its current freshman class. (UCLA is second with 15%.) This year, Robinson said, his staff visited South Africa, England, Turkey, New England, Florida and Texas, among other places.

UC officials say they know that some California families will worry that out-of-state or international students may take coveted spots on campus that might otherwise go to Californians. But university leaders contend that UC will not reduce the number of California students significantly — or at all on certain campuses — in its push to boost non-resident enrollment. But they also said that depends on the state's continuing to subsidize its California students.

The extra tuition from out-of-state students helps support classes and campus life for Californians, UC officials say. And the university does not provide non-resident students financial aid for the $23,000 they pay beyond the basic $11,000 in fees and $16,000 for room, board and other expenses.

"The financial circumstances make us seek additional revenues and this is one source of additional revenues to fund the educational needs of our students," said Lawrence H. Pitts, the UC system's provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. The out-of-staters also bring cultural, intellectual and geographic diversity to UC and, by state rules, generally must show higher academic credentials for admission than Californians.

At this week's meeting, the regents will discuss a university commission's recommendation that UC increase its overall enrollment of out-of-state undergraduates from 6% now to as much as 10% over the next few years, with some variation among campuses. A vote on the proposal is expected in December, Pitts said.

By comparison, public universities in Michigan, Virginia and Colorado enroll more than 30% of their undergraduates from beyond state borders, supporters of the change note.

But UC San Diego history professor Daniel Widener, who heads that campus' African American studies program, is among those who oppose any significant increase in non-resident enrollment at UC. Widener says the plan could spark political controversy and result in lower state funding and alumni support for the university.

In addition, the professor said, UC's recruiting effort would be better aimed at trying to find talented Californians, especially from low-income households and minority families. "It could be disastrous for the long-term viability of the system," he said.

Tighter state budgets have nudged many public universities in recent years to seek more non-resident students. But such recruiting has its limits, except for a few elite public universities such as UC Berkeley, according to David Shulenburger, vice president for academic affairs at the National Assn. of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges.

Across the country, he said, about three-quarters of all college-bound students stay in their home states for school, and high unemployment among their families has made it harder for them to go far from home, he said. "It is not reasonable to believe that all schools can succeed in attempting to increase their number of out-of-state students," he said.

On recruiting trips, UC admissions officials often emphasize their campuses' world-class faculties, champion sports teams and the state's pleasant climate; but lately, they have also faced questions from parents and students about the university's financial health and course cutbacks.

At UC Berkeley, Robinson said that potential applicants around the country want to know whether they will be able to enroll in the classes they need in order to graduate in four years. His staffers, he said, are upfront in saying that UC is not as flush with money as it used to be, but they tell questioners that students still receive a high-quality education and can finish on time.

Still, most campuses aren't waiting for regents to decide on a systemwide out-of-state recruiting plan.

UCLA, for example, intends to raise its proportion of non-resident undergraduates from the current 11% to about 18% over the next three to five years without reducing the number of Californians, said Lifka.

UC Irvine wants to increase its percentage of out-of-state undergrads gradually, from 4% now to about 10%, said Brent Yunek, assistant vice chancellor for enrollment services. The campus took initial steps last year to boost its national recruiting but is doing more this admissions cycle, with recruiters heading out of state to college fairs and high school counselors' conventions, he said.

"This is the first full-fledged year we are active in this kind of way," he said.

larry.gordon@latimes.com

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