Following years of disputes around out-of-state admissions, UC Berkeley’s international students have seen a decrease in their representation on campus and a lack of diversity in their countries of origin and socioeconomic backgrounds.
In 2017, the UC Regents limited the proportion of nonresident students admitted to the UC system. According to a 2017 press release from the UC Office of President, this came after the state’s 2016 Budget Act provided $18.5 million in state support to limit the number of nonresident undergraduates.
State legislators suggested a similar push in 2021, proposing once again a cap of 18% nonresident enrollment for UC Berkeley, UCLA and UC San Diego by 2026–27.
The 2022 budget allocated $31 million to offset the loss of tuition and fees for a target reduction of 902 nonresident undergraduate students for the three campuses in 2022 to 2023.
Aligning with the proposal, campus’s 2022 to 2023 cohort of new undergraduates is 11.5% international, compared to 13.6% last year. The drop in international representation has made this year’s incoming undergraduate class the least international since 2010 to 2011.
Among both new and continuing students, international representation dropped only 0.4 points in the last year, and the total number of international students marginally increased. When adjusting for total enrollment increases, however, 216 more resident students, 69 fewer international students, and 147 fewer out-of-state domestic students are enrolled at UC Berkeley than there would have been if the representation of each group had been maintained at fall 2021 levels.
Such consistent pushes in policy, and the involvement of state funds to manage nonresident enrollment, continues to receive criticism from out-of-state and international students.
ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President James Weichert noted that such legislation exacerbates a difference between California residents and nonresidents that ideally should not be there.
“The expectation for all students when they come to Berkeley is that they become part of the Berkeley family,” Weichert said. “Unfortunately, we can see changes at the state, UC and Berkeley level that are making it harder to believe that we, as nonresidents, are of equal footing and are of equal value as that of residents.”
Weichert acknowledged the different experiences resident and nonresident students naturally go through, and alleged that the “noise” from legislature and media emphasizing the priority of residents has an impact internally for students and their relationships as well.
Weichert noted that there are various other approaches the university could take to increase the enrollment of California residents while maintaining nonresident admissions, particularly addressing the gap in funding between UC campuses.
According to Berkeley International Office Director Ivor Emmanuel, international students are a crucial part of campus and the student experience.
“International students make a huge difference to the overall campus experience for all students,” Emmanuel said. “They enrich campus because they bring with them different ways of thinking, different cultural norms … International students basically enrich the learning experience.”
Among international students, however, there remain some deficiencies in diversity; according to data collected by the Berkeley International Office on fall 2022 international enrollment, 85% of international students do not come from Africa and Latin America.
Emmanuel noted these discrepancies in his own career as director, adding that Africa and Latin America are the most underrepresented countries among international students.
“The reality is that students who are coming to the United States are those who can afford an overseas education … and when discussing specifically about Berkeley, one has to talk about the high cost of education,” Emmanuel said. “Unfortunately, as a result, students from more economically stronger and more successful countries are the ones who have opportunities to come to the United States and Berkeley in particular.”
Kavena Hambira, an international student from Namibia, reflected on his experience fitting into UC Berkeley. For Hambira, his studies in documentary and film allowed him to establish a community through art.
He noted that by working on various projects within the Bay Area, Hambira was able to establish a space for himself, something that he notes many international students do not get the opportunity to do.
“I always feel Berkeley has this idea of being a world-class institution … that is really contingent on international students to a certain degree, and my question is if we’re not creating an equitable space to attract them, we’re really just cherry picking really wealthy students,” Hambira said. “It literally goes against the ethos of the school, especially since I always saw Berkeley as a place that liberalized education.”