Court ruling means University of California, Berkeley, will have to slash fall enrollment by 3,000

March 3, 2022
Berkeley residents contend in a lawsuit that the university's enrollment growth has negatively affected city services and available housing.

The University of California, Berkeley, will have to turn away 3,000 prospective students for the fall semester after the California Supreme Court refused to strike down a lower court’s order that the university cut its enrollment.

CalMatters reports that the court decision means UC Berkeley can enroll only 6,500 new freshmen and transfer students in the fall, down from the 9,500 the university intended.

The ruling stems from Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman’s order last year to hold UC Berkeley’s enrollment at 2020-21 levels. Residents in Berkeley had sued the university, objecting to the impact the school’s enrollment growth would have on city services, scarce local housing and noise. 

“This is devastating news for the thousands of students who have worked so hard for and have earned a seat in our fall 2022 class,” read a statement from UC Berkeley. “Our fight on behalf of every one of these students continues.”

The University of California system doesn’t have a plan for ensuring those 3,000 students will find a slot at another campus.

“It is too early in the legal process to know exactly how prospective students will be affected,” said Ryan King, a spokesperson for the U Cal Office of the President.

Lawmakers could try to fast-track a bill to exempt campus enrollment from the state’s environmental quality act, a lawmaker said last month. But UC Berkeley is supposed to inform students by March 24 whether they’re admitted. May 1 is the deadline for students to put down deposits to attend the campus.

UC Berkeley has argued in court filings that if it cannot enroll these 3,000 students this fall, it’ll lose out on $57 million in annual tuition payments for at least four years. 

Berkeley projected in 2005 that its 2020 enrollment would be around 33,000 students. But the campus actually hit nearly 43,000 students in fall 2020. Despite the increased enrollment, UC Berkeley built fewer housing slots for students than it had anticipated. It had projected that it would have 10,790 beds in 2020, but to date can house just 9,800 students.

The lawsuit brought forth by Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods contended that UC Berkeley never did a proper assessment of how that added enrollment growth affects the surrounding area. And without that analysis, the campus can’t proceed with any other construction plan.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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