The University of California at Berkeley fields more than 85,000 freshman applications every year. About 15,500 of those applicants are accepted, including 4,500 or so students who aren’t from California; roughly 9 percent of those offered admission aren’t from the United States.
Global diversity has inherent value in a college setting, but at Berkeley—a public institution that receives substantial support from taxpayer dollars—some argue it can come into conflict with its founding values as a “land-grant” university established in the mid-1800s largely to serve the children of farmers and factory workers. And as panelists acknowledged in a discussion Wednesday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, some even find international-student recruitment at private universities problematic at a time when a four-year degree remains out of reach for so many Americans.
But the panelists—all of them current or former university presidents—roundly disagree with the contention that colleges and universities in the U.S. should be restricted to those who live in the country.
UC Berkeley is charged with giving California students a premier education, and that means “having a diverse student body that includes having students outside the state of California and other countries,” said Carol Christ, the school’s chancellor. “It gives them global fluency, the ability to move across borders,” said Christ, who previously served as the president of Smith College. Not having students from other countries “is compromising their ultimate success.”