Non-resident students squeezing out residents is not the University of California's biggest problem, the system's president said Thursday.
Rather it is lawmakers and taxpayers who are unwilling to expand the 220,000-student system to keep pace with the growth of California, UC President Mark Yudof told a Palo Alto audience May 3.
In a speech to a Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce breakfast gathering, Yudof passionately asserted that state cuts to UC -- particularly severe over the past five years -- threaten to undermine the education engine that represents the "seed corn" for future innovation and economic growth in the state.
Sacramento's contribution to the UC system's $22.5 billion budget has dwindled to $2.37 billion, Yudof said. The state covers 60 percent less per student than it did 20 years ago and, for the first time, UC students now pay more than taxpayers.
The bulk of UC revenues comes from other sources, mainly those for hospitals and physicians in the system's five medical centers.
In part to beef up the budget, UC's admission rate for non-resident students indeed has climbed, and now represents about 7 percent of undergraduate admission, Yudof said. There's a current system-wide "cap of 10 percent" on non-resident undergraduate enrollment, and Yudof predicted such students will represent about 7.5 percent for the coming year.
"I don't think that's outrageous," he said.
"It provides another form of diversity and we also charge them a ton of money. If we charge them $30,000, I can take some of that and move it over to pay for the Californians the legislature isn't paying for."
He said UC has tried not to allow the growing non-resident enrollment to reduce the number of slots for California students.
"By and large, we've tried to increase the enrollment to take care of that," he said.
Yudof noted the 7 percent non-resident undergraduate admission rate is a system-wide average that could translate to 3 percent on one campus and 12 percent on another.
"Certainly Berkeley is more impacted," he said. "People around the world are more likely to have heard of Berkeley.
"I'd be happy to reduce it -- well, not happy, because they add to the environment -- but we could reduce it if the state of California were willing to pay a fair share.
"If not, it's higher tuition, more non-residents and even worse alternatives -- that we're not competitive for the best professors, not as a good a research university, it takes more time to graduate, the library is closed earlier.
"We face hard alternatives and, the fact is, nobody wants to pay. When you get to the question of taxation and tuition, people get off our train."
Yudof rejected a suggestion that UC de-emphasize state funding and refocus on boosting other sources.
"Taxpayers built this place, and I'm reluctant to call it quits," he said. "We're a consummately California institution."
Moreover, the $2 billion-plus from the state funds core liberal-arts programs in subjects like Spanish, English, fine arts and education that cannot be subsidized by other grants restricted to specific research or medical care, he said.
Yudof said he's making his way around California on a "UC myth-busting" speaking tour.
"The most prevalent myth is that tuition has gone up because the cost of producing a degree has gone up," he said.
"That sounds like common sense, but it's not true."
The cost of producing a credit-hour at UC actually has dropped 15 percent since the 1990s, "but the price to students has gone up geometrically because we have a partner who's turned out to be unreliable, the state of California."
Though the UC tuition "sticker price" is $11,300, the average tuition paid is only $4,400 because of needs-based financial aid, Yudof said.
"Another myth is that high tuition hurts the poor. That sounds like common sense, but it's not true," he said, citing an array of aid programs to help low-income students.
"The people who are hurt are the middle-class people," who do not qualify for need-based programs. "The higher tuition goes, the rougher it is for the middle class."