Saturday, April 20

California legislature unanimously passes bill lifting UC Berkeley’s enrollment freeze

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed emergency legislation late Monday that lifted a controversial, court-ordered enrollment freeze at UC Berkeley, raising the hopes of prospective students who feared they might be among 2,600 who otherwise may not be admitted this fall.

The governor’s action, which came just a few hours after the Legislature unanimously passed Senate Bill 118 and Assembly Bill 168, immediately modified the decades-old California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that spawned the freeze.

The bills removed CEQA’s provision that an increase in student enrollment by itself could be considered an environmental impact just like any other university project on the community.

Instead, the legislation now gives California’s public universities and colleges 18 months to address potential issues that enrollment growth might create under CEQA before a court could cap the student population. Lawmakers made it clear that California’s public, higher education campuses’ long-range development plans still must undergo environmental impact reviews, however.

The Assembly unanimously supported its version of the legislation in a 69-0 vote and the Senate in a 33-0 vote.

Because the legislation is retroactive as well as immediate, freshmen and transfer students waiting to learn whether they’ll be admitted will see their chances markedly improve. UC Berkeley now will extend admission offers to more than 15,000 incoming freshman later this month and to more than 4,500 transfer students in mid-April, according to university spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

He said all admission offers will be for in-person classes only, as originally planned, and approximately 400 graduate school enrollment slots will be reinstated.

The governor’s signature wasn’t a surprise; he previously filed an amicus brief opposing the enrollment freeze and urging the California Supreme Court to overturn a lower court’s ruling that enacted it.

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