The decision follows release of a report by the state's auditor, Elaine Howle. She found qualified California residents were being denied admission to California state universities because of the acceptance of many non-state residents.
Under the new policy, enrollment of non-California residents will be limited to 18 percent at five University of California campuses. Those campuses are: Santa Barbara, Davis, Santa Cruz, Riverside and Merced.
At the four other campuses, in Los Angeles (UCLA), Berkeley, Irvin and San Diego, the percentage of non-state residents is already above 18 percent. Those schools will not be permitted to go above their percentage of non-state residents admitted for the 2017-2018 school year.
The policy will take effect at the start of the 2018-2019 school year.
Emotional Debate at Board Meeting
There was emotional debate at Thursday's Board of Regents meeting as a majority of members voted to limit out-of-state residents.
Board member Hadi Makarechian was once an international student. He moved to California from Iran in the 1960s.
Makarechian told the board he fears the new limits will lead gifted international students to look elsewhere for college.
"I know the ‘in thing' today is to build walls, but we are building a wall around the University of California by doing this," he said.
But University of California President Janet Napolitano said the new limit on out-of-state residents is a "balanced" decision.
Napolitano said the policy supports "our pledge that non-resident students will be enrolled only in addition to, and never in place of, Californians." But it still provides opportunities for students from around the world, she said.
The state university system in California is one of the largest in the world. It serves about 210,000 undergraduate students. About 16.5 percent of them are from outside California.
About 10.9 percent of non-California undergraduates are international students. They come from about 100 countries.
There are financial reasons for the acceptance of so many non-state residents. California state universities receive about $61,000 a year from non-state residents, compared to about $34,000 per student for in-state students. That is a difference of about $27,000.
In March, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block told the board that extra tuition from non-state residents helped his university avoid cuts and add some courses, even as state education spending dropped.
But, as the Regents met last week, its members were mindful of another issue. The California state government had been holding up $18.5 million in aid to the state's universities until the board moved to reduce non-state admissions.
Assemblyman Kevin McCarty had led the move to hold up the financing. He said lawmakers have been hearing from parents who say their children were being denied admission to state universities in favor of out-of-state students with "lower academic scores."
Competition for admission at California universities is intense.
UCLA received 102,000 applications for the 2017 freshman class, the school reported. It is the first time that over 100,000 students asked to be admitted.
Last year, UCLA accepted about 17,500 for its 2016 freshman class, the school reported. Of that number, 10,406 were state residents, 4,614 were out-of-state residents and 2,454 were from outside the United States, the school reported.
Of the 17,500 accepted, 6,546 were enrolled at the Los Angeles university. About 25 percent were from outside California.
I'm Bruce Alpert.
And I'm Alice Bryant.