• April 16, 2014

As Berkeley Enrolls More Out-of-State Students, Racial Diversity May Suffer

Ever since California voters banned affirmative action by state agencies in 1996, the University of California at Berkeley has struggled to enroll more than a small group of black and Latino students. Four years ago, Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau called the university's low numbers "shocking" and said the situation was "a crisis."

But after making limited progress since then, Berkeley officials are now struggling to avoid another drop in the enrollment of underrepresented minority students, this time because of pressures from state budget cuts.

To save money, Berkeley plans to reduce the size of next fall's freshman class. The university intends to enroll about 15 percent fewer Californians, while at the same time nearly doubling its number of out-of-state and international students, who will generate millions of dollars in new revenue from higher, nonresident tuition.

The intended growth in nonresident students at Berkeley, from about 12 percent to 23 percent of the student body, comes as public universities everywhere are turning to out-of-state tuition to replace declining state support. But the enrollment changes have sparked deep concern on the campus that black, Latino, and low-income students will be turned away disproportionately.

According to rough estimates prepared by a university panel on nonresident enrollment, the number of Latino freshmen who enroll next year could decline by 18 percent, the number of black freshmen by 13 percent, and the number of first-generation freshmen by 15 percent. Those estimates, which are based on the composition of the 2009-10 freshman applicant pool, compare with a 5-percent cut in the size of the fall freshman class as a whole.

"Decreasing California resident students will, at least in the short term, likely result in a less-diverse student body—an outcome that the task force finds appalling," says the panel's report, which endorsed the enrollment changes on financial grounds.

'Minimize the Damage'

Underrepresented minority and low-income students are at risk when the enrollment of California students is reduced because those groups tend to be concentrated near the cutoff point for admission, said Walter A. Robinson, Berkeley's admissions director. Out-of-state students, who must pay higher nonresident tuition, are typically a less-diverse group.

A setback for Berkeley's racial-diversity numbers, which are a prominent symbol of the level of access to higher education in California, could create political problems for the university and embolden its critics. Black and Latino residents make up more than 40 percent of California's population but represent only about 15 percent of Berkeley's freshman class.

The prospect of a drop in diversity has campus officials working to broaden their outreach to California students and to recruit a more racially diverse pool of out-of-state applicants than in the past.

How Berkeley's Student Body Might Change

A University of California at Berkeley panel estimates that a plan to enroll more students from out of state and abroad, a revenue-raising step in response to budget cuts, would result in fewer minority and first-generation students, among others, entering as new freshmen next fall.


2009-10 (preliminary)

2010-11 (estimate)

Percent change

* Figures are campus targets.

Source: University of California at Berkeley

African-American students




Chicano/Latino students




First-generation students




Students who are California residents




Total fall-term freshmen




"I'm hoping that we can put the procedures in place that will allow us to minimize the damage," said George C. Johnson, a professor of mechanical engineering and co-author of the panel's report on nonresident enrollment. "Ideally, that would mean that our ethnic diversity looks the same this year as it does next year. It's not clear that that's doable."

California college officials face strict legal limits on their ability to recruit and admit minority students because of Proposition 209, the state referendum that explicitly banned race-based preferences in public-college admissions in 1996. In many cases, admissions officials say they do not know the race of the applicants they are considering for admission.

Mr. Birgeneau, the chancellor, said it was too early to predict the outcome of the admissions process for next fall's freshman class. He said that while the student body would probably get wealthier, aggressive outreach programs might help the university compensate for potential declines in racial diversity.

"It could lead to a decrease in the number of underrepresented minorities," Mr. Birgeneau said. "On the other hand, the increased revenue from international and out-of-state students will give us more money for in-state outreach programs."

He cited a state-court decision this year that may give the university additional legal options to recruit minority students under Proposition 209. The case, American Civil Rights Foundation v. Berkeley Unified School District, will allow the university to better seek out potential students at minority-heavy high schools with less risk of a legal challenge, he said.

"If the numbers do drop, which is possible," he said, "then we will figure out strategies to compensate."

Deflating the California Fantasy

The potential for a decline in Berkeley's racial and economic diversity has drawn criticism from some faculty members and others who believe the university should retain its focus on California residents in spite of the budget cuts. Other University of California campuses are cutting their enrollment of in-state students, but none has moved as aggressively as Berkeley has to boost nonresident enrollment.

Christopher Newfield, an English professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, said in an e-mail that the political cost of enrolling many nonresident students would outweigh the financial benefits. Berkeley officials believe new revenue from nonresident tuition will fill about 15 percent of the campus's budget gap next year.

Mr. Newfield said it would be better to get the money by imposing a temporary surcharge on all students—a proposal unlikely to sit well with students who will already be paying for a 32-percent increase in tuition. Relying on nonresident tuition, he said, is "more of the California fantasy that somebody else will pay to fix this."

The blow to diversity would be equally bad, he said. "Another wave of declines in black, Latino, and first-generation enrollments would be a disaster for Berkeley and for UC," Mr. Newfield said.

Other higher-education analysts pointed to the effect the increase in nonresident students would have on the economic diversity of Berkeley's undergraduates. Berkeley and other University of California campuses enroll a far higher proportion of low-income students than do most other prominent public and private institutions.

In the 2008-9 academic year, more than a third of Berkeley undergraduates from California were eligible for Pell Grants, a rough measure of the number of low-income students. Only 8 percent of out-of-state undergraduates were eligible for Pell Grants, according to the university.

Thomas G. Mortenson, senior scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, a Washington-based research group, said it would be difficult for Berkeley to increase the diversity of its out-of-state applicant pool. "With such a large increase in the number of out-of-state students, the trade-off is going to be the low-income population that they've served so very well in the past."


1. rickinchina09 - November 05, 2009 at 07:57 am

I think it's time for the liberal elite at Berkeley and other campuses to put their money where their mouths are. If they truly believe salvaging their version of diversity in the student body is paramount, then surely they will concede to salary cuts--especially those in administration who already get paid as much as many top college football coaches. To put it crudely, which of course chafes at the delicate sensibilities of lounge chair Leftists: put up or shut up.

As for the rest of us--the real minority voices (i.e. moderates and conservatives), we've known for a long time that "diversity" has become just another code word for social engineering. Affirmative action--at least in its numerous excesses--is only one manifestation of this engineering scheme. One need not be nor should one be accused of callous Social Darwinistic thinking for believing that the academic admissions system should take care of itself. Why attempt to cap the admission of deserving Asian America students, for instance, especially those of East Asian ancestry? Why should a first or second generation immigrant who speaks Vietnamese or Chinese be given less consideration for admission than a Latino whose home language is Spanish or, worse yet, English? Why should an African American student whose parents are both white-collar income earners and who attended suburban private or public schools be given preference over a lower middle class European American student with higher test scores and GPA?

I mean, if diversity is really the issue here, let's admit a greater percentage of students of all ethnicities who happen to rank in the second or third quartile of their high school graduating classes. Don't they, too, have something to offer in view of alternative life perspectives? In other words, why the obsession with race and ethnicity? Of course, for those of us who actually ask these questions of ourselves, they are rhetorical. But, sadly, for many including I suspect those behind this article, the question is perplexing at best and troublesome--even inciting--at worst.

Maybe we should let the community outreach arm of these stellar, supposedly activist universities explore the real reasons why Blacks and Browns continue to underrepresented in their student bodies. But then that would necessitate more than the usual navel gazing and some honest reflection for a change. And we simply can't have that for fear we will be wracked by guilt or accused of far worse things. Oh, dear no, that just wouldn't do.

Now for those with an opposing view who actually took the time to read this far, I all for providing financial support and guidance to minority youth who strive to achieve and who by sheer accident of birth and family circumstance find themselves in the unenviable position of attending inner city public schools. If there schools don't offer advanced placement coursework or the teaching is not of the same caliber but said students seek to maximize their GPAs by all legitimate means necessary, then certainly we should be concerned. But how many of these very same youth would be able to succeed in the academic regimen of a Berkeley? What disservice would we with all our good intentions have committed in the name of diversity? Until we can ask this and other questions like it, the surface issue of the declining numbers of Black and Brown youth will continue to represent just another song and dance around the larger realities of the situation.

2. 12052592 - November 05, 2009 at 10:00 am

There is a population of forgotten people in California that usually get the short end of the stick when it comes to the UC system. These are the descendents of thousands of WHITE migrant farm workers who came to California in the 1930's? Today they are swept under the carpet and characterized as "white trash" "red neck" "wiggers" or "Okies" just to name a few of the disparaging monikers. They were systematically discrimated from day one in California (yes, they even tried to pass laws to ban them from coming to California). Papers were written characterizing them as a seperate biological race from "regular" white people. They were systematically barred from seeking work outside of the fields. They are overrepresented in the California prison population and unemployment lines. Are activists clamoring for their representation as part of the "diversity" programs in the UCs? No, because they are white and invisible.

3. jsch0602 - November 05, 2009 at 12:36 pm

In many cases, admissions officials say they do not know the race of the applicants they are considering for admission.


4. 12072993 - November 05, 2009 at 12:44 pm

By all means let's vent our anger about how the system doesn't work perfectly rather than simply argue that during this time of limited funding, all efforts must be made to retain whatever success has been achieved in increasing the enrollments of all disadvantaged populations whatever their characteristics. Unfortunately this means everyone's ox gets gored: the university needs to do more to allocate internal resources to this goal, the legislature must find whatever limited funds it can to support it, alumni should increase contributions AND, if it is REALLY a priority, we should consider raising tax revenues from corporations and wealthy individuals who are either the least impacted by the recession or stand to benefit more significantly from the results. Of course I doubt the previous commentators would support the latter. It is a mortal sin to use the tax word irrespective of the cause or worthiness of the need. The government is evil, it is a bloated bureaucracy, and we should really let churches and other charities take care of everything but police and fire protection. Until we see the value of finding common ground in demanding some sacrifice by all and a role for government as well as other institutions at various levels, we will continue to hurl angry rhetoric at each other and dig ourselves in a deeper hole.

5. commentarius - November 05, 2009 at 01:09 pm

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6. 12052592 - November 05, 2009 at 05:13 pm

Dust Bowl migrant farm worker history did not end with John Steinbeck. They are still here and in great numbers. California is loaded with poor, under educated people of all ethnic backgrounds. I also take offense to you characterizeing me as a right wing cross burner. I'm actually coming from the left. Have you ever heard of Woody Guthrie? I'm guessing coming from a small minded, spiteful and mean spirited outlook, perhaps you would have labaled him a cross burner too.

7. reececonrad - November 05, 2009 at 06:16 pm

We should be about choosing those with the best qualified.

8. jiuding123 - November 05, 2009 at 08:26 pm

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9. rickinchina09 - November 06, 2009 at 02:41 am


Making an ad hominem attack only furthers my argument and shows how locked many liberal elites like you are in simplistic binary thinking on this issue.


My post wasn't merely intended to vent anger--I'm long past that point. Many of us in academia have been concerned about the admissions process for decades, only we are given almost no voice in the matter because social engineering is ideologically driven. If it makes you feel any better, I also oppose legacy admissions at private institutions. But then they are exercising their perogative outside the public domain.

I'm not in favor of further taxation--the liberal answer to every financial crisis--because I do not believe it is necessary. Aside from your snide tone, you're assuming that my position is libertarian, which it most assuredly is not. Again, you're also engaging in binary thinking. But I agree with part of your assessment of the situation: all should bear the burden. So why not begin with the salaries of overpaid administrators, coaches, and even some tenured faculty?

10. quicksilver - November 06, 2009 at 08:59 am

Why is this a "shocking crisis" and for whom? Is it a crisis for faculty, who I am sure are up in arms at UCB because they do not have enough low SES students in their classes? Is it a crisis for employers, who I am sure are demanding to hire more first generation UCB graduates? Is it a crisis for students, who I am sure are protesting because their education is being compromised due to insufficient diversity in their classes? This is not a crisis, nor is it shocking, and for administrators to claim it is is complete PR bolonga.

11. rightwingprofessor - November 06, 2009 at 12:56 pm


12. priceoftheticket - November 10, 2009 at 12:02 am

Sorry, Rickinchina, but you lost me with the combo of "liberal elites" and "simplistic binary thinking."

And now for some numbers:

The UC Index

Percentage change in number of UC senior managers, 1997-2007: +118.
Percentage change in number of UC faculty: +24.
Percentage change in UC student enrollment, 1997-2007: +39.
Percentage change in UC undergraduate education fee: +103.
Percentage change in 2009-10 UC budget due to decrease in state support: -3.
Percentage change in proposed student fees in Spring 2010: +30.
Ratio of UC faculty/senior management in 1993: 2.5.
Ratio of UC faculty/senior management in 2009: 1.
Estimated annual added cost of the excess UC senior managers: $791,981,440.
Number of California resident UC students whose educational fee could be supported by that sum: 126,000.
Ratio of student fee revenue/General Fund revenue in 1997: 0.28.
Ratio in 2008: 0.53.
Ratio in 2008 if the cost of excess management were removed: 0.29.
Cost of increased UC senior management compensation in 2009: $9 million.
President Yudof's view of UC's budget problems: "There are always crises...[but] it will all work out."
Yudof's 2008-9 compensation: $828,000.
Chancellor Katehi's salary: $400,000.
President Obama's salary: $400,000.

University of California Statistical Summary of Students and Staff, Fall 2007

13. owhlibrary - November 18, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Probably, we need to repeal key elements of Prop 13.

14. promontorium - November 26, 2009 at 04:32 am

This is really depressing. Who am I in this? Nobody. I'm scum. I'm from California. And I'm white. God what to do with me?

What moron decided being white automatically meant any privilige or wealth was bestowed? Is this 1950?

I'm poor as hell. I've been working since I was 12 (on the books). My parents worked their asses off. They were poor. My grandparents worked their asses off, all of them teachers. They were poor. My family has been in California for over 100 years. Never oppressed anyone. Not a bit of racism. Not a drop of charity came my way.

I served in the military 6 years. I'm just trying to come home and get a degree.

But I guess it won't be from a California college. I'm a damn villain in their story. My skin isn't dark enough. My home isn't far enough away. Nevermind how I work. Nevermind my potential. Nevermind who I am as a person. I'm a white Californian. SCUM to California colleges.

A plague on all your houses.

15. davi2665 - December 01, 2009 at 04:11 pm

How pathetic to see all the liberal Californian elites squabbling over the correct percentages of this disadvantaged group and that disadvantaged group, and how a change in such consideration may just usher in the end of social engineering as the Marxists now know it. Their knee jerk answer is usually to slash administrative salaries (even though they are not even close to the private sector, of course protecting the unionized cushy tenured faculty salaries and benefits, and pile on the taxes to these evil rich, who obviously can afford it (also not acknowledging that these evil rich are the sources of many small businesses and their employees, and for investments that are essential to create jobs in a failing economy). Ultimately, this will play out the way all Marxist schemes play out- with miserable failure, punitive destruction of the means of productivity, and further poverty. Then we can all be equally "oppressed", thereby achieving a status of victimhood for everybody, and we won't have to worry about higher education, because everyone can live off of government handouts and government jobs, paid for with borrowed money or newly minted dollars with no backing.

16. ucstudent - December 07, 2009 at 10:50 pm

Did anyone even read the article?
They talk about how this disproportionately affects first generation students. That includes a lot of people including impoverished or blue collar whites.
International stuents are great to have on campus, however they should be used by the administration to turn others away. Especially when they are simultaneously cutting services for international students that are crucial (like ESL programs, other retention programs). So apparently, they want you for your money, but they don't care about the services you might need.

The problem does not begin with higher education admissions. There are social problems and historical problems that have led to the underrepresentation of certain peoples. In many cases we still live in a segregated country, and impoverished areas usually mean parents who do not have the cultural capital to pass onto their children, nor the support from their local public education system to facilitate these children into higher learning.

However, turning away chicano students or poor whites, means one less person from that community who stands out as an example to others, one less person to return to the community, contribute to it, and make it better. This isn't just the issue of individual "advantages"- these are whole communities at stake.

The revenue that international students bring, is actually quite minor, and would mostly do more harm (through the lowering of in state enrollments) than good. The fact that these non resident tuitions go through the UCOP (office of the president, a huge bureaucratic miasma) is even more troubling.

-asian american uc student, who resents people holding up asians as "model minorities" in detracting from other historically underrepresented groups.

17. ucstudent - December 07, 2009 at 10:52 pm

correction: International stuents are great to have on campus, however they should *not* be used by the administration to turn others away.

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