Californians Need Not Apply — Grim Precedent Set for Grad Students

By David North on August 17, 2012

In-state tuition is designed to help residents of a state get a university education at a reduced cost in a government-supported institution. That's why the open-borders types want illegal aliens to get that break, as they do in many states.

But there's a new twist on in-state tuition coming out of California. One part of the state's higher education system has decided that if you qualify for in-state tuition, and want, for instance, a master's degree in computer science, you will not be admitted.

There is room only for foreign students and out-of-state Americans who pay at the higher out-of-state rates. And the former are expected to out-number the latter by a large margin.

It sounds like a fantasy dreamed up by one of the more skilled of the H-1B lobbyists, who keep talking about a "shortage" of American high tech workers, and thus the need for more foreign ones. If some American schools will only train foreign (and in this case non-Californian) grad students in high tech specialties, then the lobbyists can say "Hey, there really is a shortage of American workers."

An MS in computer science is a highly desired credential, valued by many employers. It is also the stepping-stone used by many foreign students on their way to both a job in the United States and an H-1B visa. Universities offering this degree can demand the payment of full tuition, and need not worry about funding scholarships and fellowships (as they do at the PhD level.)

The institution making this no-in-state grad students rule is the California State University system (which is different from the more prestigious University of California academic operation). The motivation is frankly financial. Given crushing cutbacks in state government support, CSU is paying attention to the fact that in-state graduate school tuition is $7,356, but out-of-state payments come to $16,284.

The ruling applies to all January 2013 admissions to all of its grad schools, and was reported by the Mercury-News on August 10.

One of the reasons for taking this step is the tax-setting rules in California, where conservative forces have stuck the state legislature with a two-thirds requirement for raising taxes. There are enough no-new-taxes votes in the current legislature to block action by the majorities, in both houses, that want to increase taxes as well as cut spending.

My sense is that while a grim precedent has been set about educating international students rather than domestic ones, it will not be widely followed. It is the academic equivalent of the "fireman first" budget cutting at the local level, an alarmist reaction to falling revenues. (The same ploy in the nation's capital is called locally the "Washington Monument Ploy", in which the Department of the Interior, facing a reduced budget, decides to close the monument, or threatens to do so, to secure more funding.)

One rebellious department at one CSU institution, Biology at CSU/East Bay, according to the Mercury News has decided that if it cannot admit graduate students from California, it will accept none from anywhere.

It should be noted that January admissions to grad schools are less numerous than September admissions, and that CSU institutions have fewer grad students than those at the University of California, but it is an unhappy decision nevertheless.

I am grateful to Professor Norm Matloff of UC/Davis for telling me about this incident.