Misleading Chart in University of California Report on Nonresident Students

Mandatory Fees at the University of CaliforniaThe California State Auditor recently released a report titled The University of California: Its Admissions and Financial Decisions Have Disadvantaged California Resident Students. Figure 9, which charts the mandatory fees paid by undergraduate students, caught my attention. I’ve removed the numbers and the Y-axis scale for illustrative purposes.

At first glance, it appears that residents are paying higher mandatory fees than nonresidents. From 2011 onwards, the chart gives the impression that residents are paying twice as much as nonresidents. However, this chart is incredibly misleading.

The title of Figure 9 is “The University of California Has Significantly Increased Undergraduate Mandatory Fees.” If you disregard the misleading graph, the actual numbers show that undergraduate mandatory fees increased for residents from $6,141 (2005-06) to $12,240 (2015-16). For nonresidents, their undergraduate mandatory fees increased from $23,961 (2005-06) to $36,948 (2015-16). So, in 10 years, the undergraduate mandatory fees increased by $6,099 for residents and $12,987 for nonresidents. In other words, undergraduate mandatory fees increased for residents by half as much as it did for nonresidents. Figure 9 will give you the opposite impression.

corrected-uc-feesHere is a more accurate chart that shows the rise in undergraduate mandatory fees. In truth, nonresidents pay over three times as much as residents in undergraduate mandatory fees. Additionally, in the past decade, nonresidents have faced twice as large an increase in undergraduate mandatory fees as residents. For the California State Auditor to show otherwise is just misleading.