The University of California, Berkeley said it may have to accept thousands fewer students than expected after a state appeals court ruled the flagship school must keep enrollment at 2020 levels -21, when the pandemic led to an unusually low number of students at the University.
The decision, which would freeze student enrollment at 42,347, is the result of a legal battle with a residents’ group, Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods, which accused the university of not providing enough on-campus housing while admitting a large number. of students, many of whom come from out of state or other countries.
The enrollment freeze at this level means that the university, already one of the most selective in the country, would have 3,050 fewer places for incoming freshmen and transfer students than it had planned for l fall 2022. Typically, UC Berkeley said, it offers admission to about 21,000 freshmen and transfer students and about 9,500 of them enroll.
The university said in a statement that it stands to lose at least $57 million in tuition fees.
To stay at 2020-21 enrollment levels, the university said it would have to make “a reduction of at least 5,100 undergraduate admissions offers.”
The University of California board of trustees appealed the case to the state Supreme Court in hopes of avoiding “a calamitous scenario for our students and our campus,” the statement said.
“This court-ordered enrollment decline would be a tragic outcome for thousands of students who have worked incredibly hard to gain admission to Berkeley,” the university said.
Since 2005, the university has admitted 14,000 students but provided only 1,600 beds, said Phil Bokovoy, president of Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods, which sued the university in 2018.
As a result, students have sought housing in Berkeley neighborhoods, moving into apartments that were once rent-controlled and displacing low- and middle-income residents, Bokovoy said.
“We’ve seen a massive amount of homelessness in Berkeley as a result,” he said. “It created a huge problem.”
Last August, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman agreed with the group that the university “continued to grow and quickly exceeded” its enrollment projections.
He also said the university could not move forward with the Upper Hearst project, a plan for new housing and academic spaces for faculty members, postdoctoral researchers and graduate students.
Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods sued the university in 2019 to stop the project because it said the university failed to provide enough information or assurances about how the project would alleviate the housing crisis or affect traffic, noise and other environmental issues.
The Regents appealed Judge Seligman’s decision last October.
On February 10, an appeals court refused to order a stay of the lower court’s decision, meaning the university would have to comply with the Superior Court’s order to freeze enrollment.
“The Regents have not demonstrated that they ‘would suffer irreparable harm greater than the harm that would be suffered by the other party,'” the appeals court said.
The appeals court also noted that the university’s lawyers waited three months to file an appeal.
“Apart from claiming that they or their attorneys did not understand the nature of the judgment being appealed, they offer no explanation for the long delay,” the court said.
In their appeal to the state Supreme Court on Monday, attorneys for the Regents sought an immediate stay and argued that the enrollment freeze “would have a catastrophic impact on UC Berkeley’s ability to admit low-income students.” income and under-represented”.
The group of residents said they were trying to avoid a housing crisis like at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where students were forced to sleep in cars or hotels.
Mr Bokovoy, who has lived in Berkeley since 1983, said his organization had repeatedly tried to meet with university officials to find a solution out of court, but had been rebuffed.
One idea would be for the university to sign a binding agreement with the city not to accept more students than it could accommodate, he said.
“That’s all we asked for from the start,” Mr Bokovoy said. “But they refused to sit down with us to talk about it.”
Dan Mogulof, a spokesperson for the university, said administrators have met with city leaders who support the university’s building plans.
He said enrollment was not determined by UC Berkeley, but by the regents and legislature, which called on public universities in the state to accept more students from California.
Mogulof said the university’s efforts to build more housing have been thwarted by lawsuits from community groups, a development he called “ironic”.
“We’re in the midst of a very aggressive and very expensive housing initiative, where we’re going to build student housing on every university-owned property,” Mogulof said. “It’s hard to move forward when you’re being chased by the very people who say they want these projects.”