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UC Berkeley could be forced by a court to cut 3,000 undergraduate spots and freeze enrollment


UC Berkeley could be forced to shrink its fall 2022 freshman class and transfer students by a third, or 3,050 seats, under a court order seeking to halt growth . (David Butow / For The Time)

UC Berkeley, one of the nation’s most sought-after campuses, could be forced to cut its incoming fall 2022 class by a third to 3,050 seats and waive $57 million in lost tuition under a recent court order to freeze enrollment, the university announced Monday.

The university’s planned reduction in the number of freshmen and transfer students came in response to a ruling last August by an Alameda County Superior Court judge who ordered an enrollment freeze. and upheld the lawsuit of a Berkeley neighborhood group that challenged the environmental impact of the university’s expansion plan. Many neighbors are upset about the impact of listing growth on traffic, noise, housing prices and the natural environment.

The University of California board of trustees appealed the decision and asked that the enrollment freeze order be stayed pending the appeal. Last week, an appeals court rejected that request. The Regents appealed the ruling to the California Supreme Court on Monday.

“This court-ordered enrollment decline would be a tragic outcome for thousands of students who have worked incredibly hard to gain admission to Berkeley,” UC Berkeley said in a statement. “If left untouched, the court’s unprecedented decision would have a devastating impact on prospective students, college admissions, campus operations, and UC Berkeley’s ability to serve California students by meeting the goals of registration set by the State of California.”

The campus said the $57 million loss in tuition revenue would reduce available financial aid, strain campus operations and possibly limit course offerings.

Phil Bokovoy, president of Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods, which filed the lawsuit, blamed the crisis on the university, saying the campus had failed to build enough housing to accommodate its growing student population. He added that UC Berkeley could manage the court-ordered enrollment freeze without hurting California students by reducing offers of admission to international and out-of-state students.

“It is irresponsible for Berkeley to add 3,000 new students in the midst of a terrible housing crisis,” Bokovoy said.

The fury underscores the contradictory and growing pressures on UC regarding registration. Lawmakers, families and equity advocates are pushing campuses to increase seats for California students, especially those who are still underrepresented in the nation’s premier public university research system. Many policymakers say the state’s economic future hangs in the balance as California faces a looming shortage of 1.1 million workers with bachelor’s degrees by 2030 to meet its labor needs. -work.

Meanwhile, demand for UC seats continues to rise. As more California high school students meet UC’s eligibility requirements and barriers to entry fall, such as UC’s 2020 elimination of SAT and ACT scores for the admission, UC applications are skyrocketing. Record-breaking applications for fall 2021, however, caused major heartbreak in the spring, when campuses sent letters of acceptance: although UC admitted 132,353 freshman applicants, an increase of 11% compared to the previous year, more than 71,000 were denied admission, including nearly 44,000 Californians. Admission rates fell at seven of nine undergraduate campuses — dropping at UCLA to 9.9% for freshman applicants in California.

And future trends look bleak. The number of students who qualify for admission to UC and California State University but who cannot enroll in a four-year institution due to a shortage of places could nearly double from from around 73,000 students in 2018-19 to 144,000 by 2030, according to research by the College Futures Foundation.

UC Berkeley’s announcement came during an Assembly budget hearing on higher education on Monday with UC President Michael V. Drake, as well as Chancellor of the State University of California Joseph I. Castro and Chancellor of California Community Colleges Eloy Ortiz Oakley. Drake told committee members that reducing the incoming class would have a “devastating impact” on the 3,000 students who would otherwise be admitted and would continue to hamper the university in the future by reducing funds available for courses and other campus services.

Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), who has pushed UC to expand access for California students, called the Berkeley news “disappointing” and noted that lawmakers “listened to concerns of these college towns” by launching a new $2 billion bill. funds to help public campuses build student housing. Asked by McCarty what lawmakers could do to help, Drake said the state could look at the scope of environmental reviews to control listings.

“We are fully interested in protecting the environmental quality of the communities we live in, and those things have to be balanced,” Drake said.

Berkeley was ordered to freeze student enrollment at the 2020-21 level of 42,347. To arrive at that number — which is 3,050 fewer seats than planned for fall 2022 — the campus said it should reduce offers of admission by at least 5,100 to account for the part that refuses acceptance. Berkeley argues freezing enrollment at 2020 levels is inappropriate because the pandemic caused it to drop “dramatically and unexpectedly” that year as students took time off.

Judge Brad Seligman’s ruling came amid a lawsuit brought by Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods, which has filed numerous legal challenges to campus growth plans since 2018, including the latest proposed addition of college space and approximately 30 additional beds for graduate students. The group claimed that UC Berkeley had not considered reducing enrollment to avoid negative environmental impacts and, since 2005, had added 11,000 students beyond the 2020 goal set in the development plan to campus long term.

The group said most of Berkeley’s excess enrollment is made up of nonresident students, who pay higher tuition, and the soaring numbers tax city resources, including housing, police and fire departments, water and parks, and contribute noise and waste.

Berkeley, in its Environmental Impact Statement, argued there was no need to consider reductions because enrollment growth in previous years had had “no significant environmental impact”.

Seligman disagreed. He also ordered UC regents to rescind their approval of the campus project to create more academic space and housing for faculty, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students for now.

In its appeal, UC asked the state High Court to stay the order to freeze enrollment until 5 p.m. Friday because the campus is currently evaluating 150,000 freshman applicants and is expected to post most college offers. admitted on March 24. The registration cap will impose “immediately”. , significant and time-consuming changes to the admissions process at UC Berkeley that could only be accomplished at this point by delaying the issuance of acceptance letters,” UC said.

The university added that low-income and underrepresented students would be disproportionately affected by a delay because they would have less time to get adequate financial aid advice in time for the May 1 commitment deadline. .

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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