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California Legislature Bails Out UC Berkeley

California Legislature Bails Out UC Berkeley

Inside Higher Ed 

Josh Moody
March 15, 2022
An enrollment cap brought by an environmental lawsuit put UC Berkeley at risk of losing 400 students. Lawmakers provided a solution Monday that Gov. Newsom quickly signed into law.
After a judge imposed an enrollment cap, the University of California, Berkeley, needed a minor miracle to avoid having to cut its fall 2022 enrollment by 400 students. On Monday it got just that: an immediate reprieve courtesy of the California State Legislature.
Senate Bill 118, which changes how a California environmental law applies to colleges, was passed unanimously Monday by both houses of California’s Legislature—69 to 0 by the Assembly and 33 to 0 by the Senate—despite a handful of objections during public hearings. Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law on Monday night. In passing SB 118, lawmakers emphasized the importance of supporting higher education in the state and rebuked a community group whose lawsuit forced an enrollment cap.
The group, known as Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods, sued UC Berkeley under a state environmental impact law. Initially the university feared it would lose up to 3,050 students, a number it adjusted in light of creative admissions moves that included deferring students and shifting some online. After California’s Supreme Court left a court-ordered enrollment cap intact, lawmakers rode to the rescue Monday, bailing UC Berkeley out as it scrambled to accommodate students deep into admission season.
A Legislative Lifeline
Introduced Friday, SB 118 will change how the California Environmental Quality Act applies to colleges, providing higher education institutions with an 18-month window to certify court-ordered environmental reviews before an enrollment freeze can be ordered by a judge. Additionally, increasing enrollment will not be treated the same way as a building project in terms of evaluating environmental impact.
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