We need to open doors wider at the University of California to allow more Californians in, but proposed legislation to limit out of state enrollment at UC campuses is misguided and counterproductive.

AB 1711 by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty of Sacramento would limit the enrollment of out of state and international students.  This proposal fails to get a passing grade in economics, arithmetic or logic.  On top of regular tuition—about $12,000 a year—non-residents pay an additional $25,000 annually, more than enough to cover the costs of an additional California student.  That’s not even talking about the benefits of bringing some of the nation’s and the world’s brightest young minds to our campuses and our state.  It is also true that a great number of non-residents who come to California for an education stay and contribute to the cultural and economic vitality of the state.

The simple truth is that worthy California residents are not being displaced by out of state students.  The reason that qualified applicants from our state find it so hard to get in is that the State has been starving the UC system for the past quarter century.  In 1990-91, the State provided $18,820 per student to UC compared to $7,780 in 2015-16.  Even with significant tuition increases, the system has not been able to grow its enrollment to accommodate the thousands of worthy California students who want to enroll.

When the Legislature passed this year’s Budget it included a mandate for an increased enrollment of 5,000 California residents at UC and provided $25 million to support that increase.  The catch is that the additional money covers only half of the additional cost to the University.  The real solution is not to put up barriers, but to restore funding levels that will allow the finest public university system in the world to fulfill its core mission of educating young Californians.

In opposing AB 1711, Assemblyman Das Williams of Santa Barbara got it right when he said, “the Legislature and the Governor massively cut UC and CSU funding, and yet, we have sort of expected that there wouldn’t be dramatic, bad consequences”.

In the last few years, Governor Brown and the Legislature have begun to edge funding up for UC and the California State University system,  but those increases do not begin to make up for decades of fiscal neglect.  At a time when State revenues are coming in ahead of projections, it makes perfect sense for the decision-makers in Sacramento to invest at least another $100 million a year in both UC and CSU.  That’s enough money to make a real difference in the lives and prospects of thousands of young Californians.

Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine co-chair the California Coalition for Public Higher Education. Ackerman is a former California State Senator and Assemblyman, and Levine is a former U.S. Congressman and State Assemblyman. Please visit yestohighered.org