This story is a bit off the beaten trail, but it raises an issue in the education arena which applies all across the country. For once we’re not talking about massively overprivileged special snowflakes shutting down their campus because of perceived threats from the sis-male patriarchy, but the actual business of accepting qualified student applicants. The story in question deals with the state University of California and the ratio of in-state students they accept vs. out of state applicants. Before you skip over this as being about as interesting as watching paint dry, give me a moment to expand on the details. (Yahoo News)

The University of California has undermined residents by admitting a growing number of nonresident students, some of whom were less qualified than in-state students, California’s auditor said in a scathing report released Tuesday…

“As a public institution, the university should serve primarily those who provide for its financial and civic support — California residents,” [state Auditor Elaine] Howle wrote. “However, over the past several years, the university has failed to put the needs of residents first.”

University of California President Janet Napolitano blasted the audit as seriously deficient, not helpful and unfair. She argued nonresident admissions have helped keep doors open for resident students at a time when state assistance has dropped considerably.

The first thing to note is that the school is under the guidance and leadership of Janet Napolitano, with whom I’m sure most of you are familiar. For someone with such a heavy, populist Democrat background, she certainly seems to have grown a bit of a capitalist streak since entering the education sector.

It may sound odd to conflate capitalism with a state university which is largely funded by the taxpayers and not intended to produce a “profit” as such, but they still have to deal with their own budget woes every year. The ostensible purpose of a state school is to primarily benefit the children of the residents of the state. (Duh) Assuming they can meet the minimum threshold for academic achievement in high school, they should get a shot at a college education and do so for less money than they would have to spend at some private, high end institution of higher learning. And for the most part, that’s what happens. But if the school is well rated and there are some open slots in the admissions roster, they can also take in students from out of state and charge them considerably more. In terms of raw, free market thinking, that’s an opportunity to take some strain off the budget.

In the case of the University of California, though, Napolitano has taken it a few steps further. Rather than filling up the roster with in-state students first, she’s begun slipping in some visitors who pay more and add to the bottom line. When accused of this by the auditor, she doesn’t deny it, but instead becomes incensed and claims that they don’t understand her budget problems.

That may be true, but it also goes against the core mission of the school. How many other state universities are already playing this game and simply haven’t been audited yet? We need to get a watchdog looking into this because I’d venture to guess that the number is much larger than just one.

Janet Napolitano