UC Berkeley almost cuts enrollment

Gov. Newsom overturns court’s decision to drop admissions by 3,050 students


Courtesy of Christine Oh

UC Berkeley students walk under Sather Gate on campus. The college’s decision to cut enrollment was overturned by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

With college admissions decisions sending seniors into a panic, the last thing the Class of 2022 wanted to hear was that a top college was drastically cutting enrollment.

But that’s exactly what UC Berkeley was about to do.

A California Court of Appeal decided on Feb. 10 that UC Berkeley would have to freeze student enrollment at 42,347 for the 2022-2024 school years, the same level it was at in 2020-21, according to UC Berkeley News.

This meant that 5,100 applicants who could have been accepted to UC Berkeley would have been denied. This could have resulted in 3,050 fewer students accepting admission and enrolling, according to an email UC Berkeley sent applicants on Feb. 14.

But Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation on Monday overturning this decision so the enrollment freeze will not occur. 

This was a huge relief for Cal seniors who applied to UC Berkeley.

“I’m elated,” senior Lulu Khalil said. “I was pretty upset about it. It makes me very happy to hear. It gives me hope.”

Added senior Tanya Gupta, “I’m very happy. UC decisions are irregular anyway, so to hear it’s going back to normal is very inspiring.”

A local group of Berkeley residents and activists called Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods sued the school for not being able to provide housing for the new students.

“The group that brought this lawsuit against [UC] Berkeley wanted originally to have Berkeley tie enrollment to the number of beds it can build and supply,” Cal High’s college counselor Kathy Nichols said. “The Berkeley chancellor said in the past that is not an option.”

When UC Berkeley admits more students, the housing availability for non-student Berkeley residents decreases, Nichols explained.

“The university has created a tremendous housing shortage in Berkeley,”  Nichols said. “Because they cannot provide enough beds for their students, this pushes out lower income families because [students] have to rent in residential areas.”

As a result, residential areas are becoming too expensive for native Berkley residents.

Enrollment for 2020-21 was unusually low because fewer students applied because of the pandemic, Nichols said.

When UC Berkeley freshman Stephanie Su first heard about the enrollment cuts, she thought it might be a good idea because of the adverse effects that more students on campus might have on the surrounding environment.

But after researching the group behind the lawsuit calling for enrollment cuts, she said she learned that SBN was being hypocritical.

“I found out that even though the proponents of the freeze are like, ‘[UC Berkeley] shouldn’t have more students than it can house,’ oftentimes they’re the same ones suing UC Berkeley every time [the school tries] to build more housing,” Su said.

When Cal seniors heard the news about enrollment cuts, they had conflicting opinions.

“Initially, [my first thought] was this can’t last for a long time,” senior Aryan Sarda said. “They’ll probably appeal it in the Supreme [Court]. It’s unfair almost. There’s no shot they’re gonna keep [the freeze].”

“I felt really sad because Berkeley is my top choice,” said senior Pranay Thakkur.

UC Berkeley made an appeal to the California Supreme Court against the enrollment cuts, which was denied on March 3, Nichols said.

Luckily, the new legislation that Gov. Newsom signed on Monday allows UC Berkeley to offer admission to 5,100 more students for the 2022 school year than it would have been able to because of the lawsuit, according to The LA Times.

Nichols believes that the enrollment cuts would have been unfair to UC Berkeley applicants.

“On a student level, it is an unfair situation,” Nichols said. “[Students] are admitted to a university based on academic achievements and all the other criteria that is used to admit a student to [UC] Berkeley and your admissions now are based on factors beyond your control.”

Su thinks the cons of the enrollment freeze outweigh the potential pros.

“The enrollment has grown by like 11,000 in the past 20-ish years, and yet a lot of the resources seem kind of limited,” Su said. “It doesn’t feel like UC Berkeley has enough resources, but even then, decreasing the enrollment by several thousands of students wouldn’t really make a dent in that issue because there’s so many students to begin with.”

Su feels that because UC Berkeley is a public school, it is able to provide better quality education for the public, and should thus accept more students.

“In order to continue that mission of increasing accessibility to education, it is necessary to have as many students as UC Berkeley can reasonably provide for,” Su said.