By Sharon Bernstein
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) - Winning admission to the prestigious University of California was harder for California students this year than it was for international applicants, according to data released on Thursday likely to further fuel debate over the system's mission.
Release of the data caps months of tension over the 10-campus system, as administrators who sought higher funding tussled with lawmakers and Democratic Governor Jerry Brown over such issues as tuition and admission rates for California students.
It shows that of 103,117 California residents who applied for admission this year, 60 percent - 61,834 - were admitted. That's down from 62.9 percent last year, and 63.6 percent the year before. Admission rates also dropped for out-of-state U.S. residents.
By comparison, the rate of acceptance for international students increased to 62.2 percent for fall of 2015, compared with 60.1 percent last year and 60.9 percent the year before.
International and out-of-state students pay more in tuition than Californians, and critics have accused the university of admitting them at the expense of Californians.
Last year, University of California President Janet Napolitano threatened to raise tuition if the state did not increase funding by $100 million for the fiscal year that began July 1.
That set off a battle with Brown, who had said he would only increase funding if tuition remained flat - and then only if the university cut spending in some areas and admitted more Californians. In the end, Brown committed funds to help pay down the university's pension obligations, and Napolitano held off raising tuition.
On Thursday, Napolitano spokeswoman Dianne Klein said that in terms of raw numbers the university is aiming to enroll about as many Californians next fall as were admitted last year.
Admissions varied greatly from campus to campus. For example, it was harder for both international students and California residents to win a place at the University's flagship campuses in Berkeley and Los Angeles.
At UC Davis, a campus near Sacramento that is gaining in prestige and popularity, the admission rate for Californians dropped to 32.8 percent, from 38.1 percent last year and 39.4 percent the year before. International applicants, by contrast, had an admission rate of 51 percent, up from 45.6 percent last year, and out-of-state U.S. students were accepted at a rate of 60.6 percent, up from 52.4 percent last year.
A spokesman for Brown was not immediately available for comment.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)