The fight over the University of California's budget turned ugly this week, with UC President Janet Napolitano threatening that out-of-state admissions at UCLA and UC Berkeley would be capped for 2015-16 if the system doesn't get more taxpayer cash from lawmakers.

“We will not be admitting students that we don’t know that we actually have funding for,” Napolitano told a state Assembly budget subcommittee yesterday. “We will put a cap on next year's out-of-state enrollment at UCLA and Berkeley, where the demand is highest, at this year’s current level.”

Out-of-state students represent 21.8 percent of UCLA attendees. Those young people are more lucrative as UC customers because they pay more to attend state campuses. In, fact, Napolitano told the Sacramento Bee's editorial board that the system could easily make the UCLA and UC Berkeley student bodies 50 percent out-of-state “just by snapping our fingers.”

“The demand” from qualified applicants, she said, “is that high. “We don't want to do that,” she said.

But both kinds of would-be students, in-state freshman and transfers as well as out-of-state hopefuls, would face a ceiling on how many of them could get into UCLA, Napolitano told legislators:

 … Absent additional funding, UC is not in a financial position to absorb more California students beyond those we currently serve. As such, campuses have been instructed to keep their enrollment of California students flat.

Credit: UCLA via Derek Cross/L.A. Weekly Flickr pool

Credit: UCLA via Derek Cross/L.A. Weekly Flickr pool

The system has been rocked by decreasing taxpayer support and a more than tripling of tuition in a generation. According to a UC statement, “Today, state funding to UC, in non-inflation adjusted dollars, is same as 1997, yet we educate 75,000 more students.”

The Public Policy Institute of California concluded in November that “the tuition increases over the past several years have merely shifted the cost from the state to students and their families.”

This in a system that was designated in 1960 to provide an equal opportunity at advancement for California's brightest high schoolers, regardless of their families' income.

University of California administrators are in a standoff with Gov. Jerry Brown, who promised to boost state funding only if tuition held steady. The system has already proposed yet another tuition increase while at the same time demanding more cash from the state.

The “governor’s proposed budget increase does not fund our mandatory minimum costs and certainly doesn’t fund increased California enrollment,” the university stated.

Gov. Brown was silent on the matter yesterday.

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