While most people think that the biggest cause for the future reduction of a diverse student body at UC is the rapid increase of student fees, other factors may play a much bigger role. One of the main reasons why we will be seeing a decrease in both underrepresented minorities and Californians at UC in the future is that there is a plan to reduce the total number of enrolled students. At the same time, several campuses are planning to increase the number of high-paying out-of-state and international students, and this means there will be even less space for in-state students.
However, the biggest driving force behind the coming loss of diversity is the use of SAT scores to determine admissions decisions. As Peter Sacks points out in his Book Tearing Down the Gates, studies show that SAT scores do not predict the success a student will have in college; rather SAT scores predict the average wealth of the parents of the incoming student. Since campuses in the UC system are now motivated to rely more on endowments, they have a strong incentive to accept more wealthy students who will give more money in the present and the future. Universities know that the best way to build an endowment is to make SAT scores the central force in determining admissions. While UC now has a comprehensive admission policy, several campuses still base most of their admission decisions on test scores, which also helps to maintain high ratings in the U.S. News & World Report ranking system.
Nationally, many universities have now replaced need-based financial aid with merit-based aid in order to compete for the highest scoring students. The result is that wealthy students are being subsidized by middle-class students. In UC’s case, middle-class students subsidize lower-class students through a system that raises fees for everyone, and then gives a third of the money back for financial aid to the students whose parents make less than a combined $70,000. It is these same middle-class families that have seen their investments wiped out and their home values plunge. This is the true war on the middle-class: we are now seeing middle-class students dropping out of college because their parents cannot afford the tuition increases. Meanwhile, the middle-class students who do remain in the UC system face huge student loans with high interest rates.