Despite a year of state budget cuts that will result in a 7 percent increase in student fees for many undergraduates next year, it appears that for California students, UC is still the place to be.
A record 38,088 California resident students have submitted their intent to register in the UC system in the fall of 2008, a nearly 13 percent jump from the fall of 2005, according to a UC press release.
In addition to an increase in the projected entering freshman class, the UC system also saw a rise in the proportion of students from underrepresented and minority backgrounds as well as a significant increase in transfer students.
Pamela Burnett, director of undergraduate admissions for UC Davis said the increase in projected enrollment for fall 2008 is reflective of an overall rise in the number of undergraduate applicants this year.
“Increases in admissions applications to UC can be attributed in part to 2008 being a peak year for the number of California students graduating from high school,” Burnett said in an e-mail interview. “There is also a national trend of students applying to more campuses and colleges. For example, on average, UC freshman applicants applied to 3.68 UC campuses for fall 2008, compared to 3.07 UC campuses for fall 1999.“
The increase in both admitted transfer students and students from underrepresented backgrounds was not due to a purposeful effort by the UC system, but rather a result of increasing numbers of applicants from these particular groups, said Brad Hayward, a spokesperson for the UC office of the president.
“Underrepresented minority students have been increasing in the admitted classes of the UC system for several years now,” Hayward said. “We believe this is due both to improving academic preparation in the pre-college years and the changing demographics of the state, which have led to increasing numbers of applications from students of underrepresented backgrounds. Similarly, the increase in admissions of community college transfer students mirrored this year‘s increase in applications from these students.“
Despite the positive aspect of increased interest in the UC system, Hayward says there are concerns about how the universities will handle the increased enrollment given the current budget cuts being made next year.
“We expect in 2008-09 to be “overenrolled“ by 8,000 to 10,000 students – that is, we will be enrolling 8,000 to 10,000 students for whom we are not receiving state funding,” Hayward said. “It is likely that, because of the lack of new state funding, there will be reductions in student services, larger class sizes and/or reduced class offerings to some extent.“
However, Burnett said UC Davis students need not worry about a repeat of 2006‘s record size freshman class as the effects of next year’s enrollment increase will likely not be felt here at Davis.
“UC Davis is not expecting big increases in new undergraduates for fall 2008,” she said. “We will not know the official numbers of enrolled new undergraduates until the fifth week of the fall quarter 2008; however, it appears that they will come very close to the enrollment targets of 5,000 freshmen.“
As for the UC system in general, though the number of applicants has been on the rise in recent years, Hayward said that this will not necessarily be a permanent trend.
“California‘s college-age population has been growing substantially in recent years, but demographic data suggest that growth will level off in the next couple of years,” he said. “It is very possible that undergraduate demand will not be increasing in future years at the same rate it has been in the past.“
ERICA LEE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.