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Have UC schools harmed local students with their admission policies? The regents weigh in

UC President Janet Napolitano, shown meeting with future UC students in April at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Corona, has been undergoing treatment for cancer.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

University of California regents are expected to weigh in Tuesday on a scathing state audit that said UC schools have harmed local students by admitting too many out-of-state and international applicants.

UC President Janet Napolitano blasted the audit when it was released in March. She said it was unfair and glossed over the fact that out-of-state students supported the 10-campus system by paying higher tuition than California residents — an extra $728 million in fiscal year 2014 alone. That money helped campuses increase enrollment of in-state students despite the fact that the system lost one-third of its funding after the 2008 recession, Napolitano said.

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“In many instances throughout the report, (the audit) drew inferences or conclusions, or limited its findings to a subset of data, that led to a critical misunderstanding of the facts,” according to a memo from Napolitano’s office to the regents.

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But state auditor Elaine Howle has stood by the report. The audit offers several recommendations for changing UC’s admissions policies, including stricter entrance requirements for nonresident students, a cap on their enrollment and more focus on recruiting Californians — particularly African Americans, Latinos and other underrepresented minorities.

UC officials are required to report their progress in implementing the recommendations after 60 days, six months and one year from the report date. The regents will get their first chance to publicly discuss the issue at their three-day meeting, which opens Tuesday in Sacramento.

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Regents will also discuss:

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  • An update on UC practices to increase diversity among students and faculty and to provide financial aid for low-income students. Officials say UC has made some progress in increasing Latino undergraduate students, improving the graduation rate across all ethnic groups and hiring more women in tenure-track positions. But the university needs more work to increase African American and Native American students, diversify its faculty and improve the graduation rates of underrepresented minorities, according to a memo from Napolitano’s office to the regents.
  • Policies to improve scholarships, academic support and other benefits for student athletes. Although UC already guarantees four-year scholarships for athletes, a working group has proposed extending that pledge to those injured during collegiate activities, among other recommendations.
  • Napolitano’s plan to add 14,000 new beds for undergraduate and graduate students to accommodate rising UC enrollment in some of the most expensive rental markets in the nation. Students have complained about squeezing three people into rooms designed for two.
  • Progress on the new Geffen Academy, a UCLA project to provide college preparatory education for middle- and high-school students throughout greater Los Angeles, including the children of the university’s faculty and staff. Backers hope to open the academy in the fall of 2017 with an initial student body of 160, which would expand to 620 students in grades six through 12 by 2020. The academy, to be located at UCLA, will be financed by tuition and donations, including a $100-million gift contributed in November by entertainment industry billionaire David Geffen.

Follow me on Twitter @TeresaWatanabe for more education news.

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