By Victoria Irwin
In a year marked by record applications, unfunded enrollment on most campuses and continuing budget uncertainty, the University of California once again will meet its commitment to offer admission to every eligible resident freshman applicant and maintain access to higher education for traditionally underrepresented students, even while admitting more nonresidents.
The university received more than 106,000 applications from freshman hopefuls, the largest number ever. So far, 72,432 applicants have been offered admission, an increase of 4,100 over last year. With the exception of Riverside, which had unexpectedly high enrollments last year, and San Diego, whose admit numbers are very close to last year's, all of the campuses saw increases.
California residents number 59,288 — about 500 more than last year, or 81 percent of all admitted students. This number is expected to rise as campuses continue to admit California students through waitlists, which all campuses except UCLA and UC Merced have implemented. In addition, more than 12,000 UC-eligible students from California who did not receive an admission offer from a campus to which they applied all will be offered the opportunity to attend UC Merced.
Campuses set their enrollment targets for California students based on state funding. Over the past 20 years, enrollment has grown while the state has sharply curtailed support for the university. UC now enrolls more than 11,000 students for whom it receives no enrollment funding.
Faced with a further budget cut of at least $500 million next year, "our campuses have had to make very difficult decisions to turn away highly qualified students who they know would thrive and contribute greatly to the life of their campuses. We know some of these decisions are deeply disappointing to students and their families," said Pamela Burnett, interim director of admissions.
The greatest growth in admitted students was among nonresidents, who account for slightly more than 18 percent of all admitted freshmen, up from 14 percent last year.
"The reality is UC does not have a capacity problem. It has a funding problem," Burnett said. "If the state provided adequate funding for enrollment growth, there is no doubt that even our most selective campuses would accept more California residents."
Nonresidents pay approximately $23,000 a year more than residents to attend the University of California. Some of this revenue goes toward hiring and retaining faculty and opening more sections of heavily enrolled courses, benefitting all UC students.
Historically, nonresidents have enrolled at a lower rate than California students, and the final makeup of the entering class will not be known until after May 1, the deadline for students to accept admission offers. The university expects overall nonresident undergraduate enrollment to remain under 10 percent as recommended by the Commission on the Future and endorsed by the UC Board of Regents. This is a lower proportion than that at other public universities, such as the University of Virginia and the University of Michigan, where nonresidents make up more than 30 percent of the undergraduate enrollment.
Burnett noted that despite the highly competitive nature of this year's admissions process, the university expanded access for many students who traditionally are underserved in higher education. The proportion of admitted freshmen who will be the first in their families to earn a college degree now exceeds 41 percent, and the proportion who will graduate from high schools with low Academic Performance Index scores also increased. Nearly 37 percent of admitted freshmen are from low-income families.
In addition, admitted California residents from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups grew from about 28 percent in 2010 to nearly 31 percent in 2011, fueled by proportional increases for Latinos on every campus and for African Americans at Irvine, Merced, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz.