If you're a Californian interested in taking up graduate studies in January at a California State University campus, think again.
But if you live in another state or country, check it out and sign your check.
Cal State leaders have told the university's 23 campuses they will not be allowed to admit California graduate students for the spring term, which starts in January. Budget cuts made the system in the coming spring term unable to afford residents' heavily discounted education, campus leaders were told.
But nonresident students -- who pay considerably higher fees -- remain welcome, at least at some campuses, and that has become an issue leading some rebellious graduate schools to turn away the non-Californians -- and the financial windfall they would bring.¿
We either take both kinds of students or none, one professor said.
"It's appalling, and I would never, ever go along with" excluding resident students, said Maria Nieto, a Cal State East Bay biology professor who coordinates her department's graduate studies. "To say, 'You can accept these students at the exclusion of California students,' goes against the mission of CSU."
The philosophical debate illustrates the tough times facing the university. Budget cuts are shutting out students from schools generations of Californians paid taxes to build.
Only a handful of campuses will accept undergraduates for the spring term, which falls midway through
Cal State generally enrolls between 16,000 and 18,000 students from other states or countries. Spring-term, nonresident graduate students are really rare: some 300 statewide, a university spokesman estimated.
The residency debate has roiled the 10-campus University of California, which has boosted its nonresident numbers in recent years. The influx of students from other states and countries so upset some people that one legislator this year proposed limiting nonresidents at UC.
Out-of-state and international students bring diversity to college campuses, proponents say, and the extra money they pay helps schools offset years of budget cuts. Most graduate students from California will pay $7,356 in Cal State tuition in 2012-13; nonresidents will pay an additional $372 per semester unit, which amounts to $8,928 for 24 units per year on top of tuition.
University leaders need to let Californians know that nonresident students are not taking seats where residents would ordinarily sit, said Diana Wright Guerin, a Cal State Fullerton professor and chairwoman of the systemwide Academic Senate.
"We have not done a very good job of communicating with the public," said Wright Guerin, who supports the admission of nonresident students. "Yeah, I would be upset if I heard they were accepting students from New York or Illinois but turning away California residents. We need to explain why that is."
Communication is the key to the university finding support from students, parents and taxpayers, said Jerry Chang, a resident student who is working on master's degrees in statistics and engineering management at Cal State East Bay.
"I'd like to see the university make sure people are aware of the change," said Chang, the school's student-body president. "There's been so many changes in the past year that everybody's trying to get a handle."
San Jose State officials said their reason for accepting nonresidents is clear: They need the money.
"It's right at the head of campus priorities to pick up additional revenues," said Bill Nance, the campus's vice president for student affairs. "We agree it's not fair to Californians."
Although San Jose State made a campuswide decision to accept out-of-state and international applications, Cal State East Bay left the decision to individual departments. The biology department decided not to accept the out-of-state students, but others gritted their teeth and opened their doors.
"It's grossly unfair," said Matt Johnson, chairman of Cal State East Bay's math and computer science department. About 50 students from outside California have applied for spring admission, he said. "It's a lose-lose proposition."
Some departments, including Johnson's, have delayed a final decision, hoping they will be able to accept Californians if voters in November pass Gov. Jerry Brown's tax hikes.
Many academics find the issue distasteful.
"Personally, I feel quite crummy about the whole thing," said Peter Marsh, a Cal State East Bay music professor who coordinates his department's graduate program.
"I understand where it's coming from, but the message it sends is not a good one."
Matt Krupnick covers higher education. Follow him at Twitter.com/MattKrupnick.