UC Davis has accepted fewer than one in two freshman applicants for fall 2009.
The university considered 39,288 applicants, admitting only 18,146, or 46.2 percent. In comparison, last year the university received 37,747 freshmen applications and accepted 19,762 students, a 52.4 percent admissions rate.
Pamela Burnett, director of undergraduate admissions, cited two main reasons for the increased selectivity.
“UC Davis received a huge increase in freshmen applications, and at the same time, in January, the regents voted to reduce the UC’s overall enrollment target for fall 2009,” Burnett said. “At Davis, this reduced our freshmen enrollment target from 5,000 for fall 2008 to 4,600 for fall 2009, a significant reduction … with a reduced enrollment target, you have a reduced number of admission offers you can give.“
At the same time, UC Davis saw increases in the percentages of students admitted whose parents have not earned a degree from a four-year college, those who are from low-income families and who are from a high school performing in the lower 40 percent of California high schools according to the Academic Performance Index (API).
Students from underrepresented groups – Native American, African American and Chicano/Latino – accounted for 21.9 percent of freshmen admissions, an increase from last year’s 20.6 percent figure.
When asked if the increase in percentages for disadvantaged groups was the result of deliberate university policy, Burnett responded in the negative.
“It’s a positive outcome, but we don’t make individual decisions to produce that outcome … we have faculty-approved admissions criteria, an array of academic and non-academic factors, but the most important aspect is to achieve an admitted class that is academically prepared,“ Burnett said. “Eighty percent of all possible points are academic criteria.“
However, Burnett noted that three years ago, UC Davis‘ Academic Senate Committee on Admissions and Enrollment determined that applicants who met Eligibility in the Local Context (ELC) requirements should be guaranteed admission to UC Davis. That population is more diverse than the overall applicant pool.
In addition, the school accepted a higher number of transfer applicants, planning for about 2,000 new students to transfer from another college or university this fall, compared with 1,930 who enrolled last fall. Burnett said current budget issues played a role.
“It’s less expensive to educate students through the transfer path – it’s less expensive to fund for the institutions, and it’s less expensive for the [transfer] students themselves, since there’s the option that they can go to community college first, transfer, and end up with a UC degree. It’s a win-win,” Burnett said.
Out-of-state admissions increased slightly as well, from 7 percent last year to 7.2 for fall 2009.
Trends at UC Davis were generally mirrored across the UC system and institutions of higher education across the state and the country, as colleges tightened their budgets during the current recession.
For the high school class of 2009, these factors meant an extremely competitive year to apply for college.
“It was discouraging applying,” said Connor McGinley, a high school senior from Encinitas, California. “Each year, things have been more and more competitive, but this year I’ve been told is the peak, because next year schools are expecting less kids to apply.“
McGinley was among those admitted to UC Davis. Throughout his high school career, he received high grades, a 1910 on the SATs, and spent much of his time involved with his school’s improv team, doing sketches, shows and even commercials for school events. Connor’s first choice, however, was UCLA.
“I mean, it feels good to be admitted, especially when a lot of people I knew didn’t get into any UCs,” McGinley. “We all went into it knowing that it would be tough, but I feel I would have had a better chance if it was just a different year said.“
Connor’s mother, Tracy McGinley, reflected the thoughts of many parents.
“I wish we knew more about the UC cuts before we applied, because maybe we would have applied to more schools before the November deadline on the applications,” Mrs. McGinley said. “It’s too bad they didn’t have more money. It’s tough, but luckily Connor got in … I know a lot of kids that didn’t, so we were lucky.“
Burnett expressed sympathy for students who felt they were paying the price for graduating the wrong year.
“I think it was unfortunate, we would have preferred to provide more opportunities rather than fewer. But if the resources aren’t there, we don’t have any choice but to reduce our numbers, and that’s the decision the regents made for UC Davis,” Burnett said.
While lowered admissions rates continue to worry students and parents, the silver lining may be that next year’s smaller incoming class will be significantly higher performing than previous years‘.
The average GPA of admitted students climbed to 4.0, from a previous average of 3.94. Students currently attending UC Davis may welcome the change.
“Every year we hear schools are getting harder and harder to get into. It might not seem fair, but that’s how the system works,” said Angela Rho, a sophomore mathematics major. “And I think it’s cool that the school I got into is getting better and better each year because of it.“
Approximately 3,000 admitted students and their families visited Davis this past Saturday for Decision Day, a special program of tours and presentations to help them become more familiar with the campus. Thousands more are expected to visit on Apr. 17 for another Decision Day, as well as Picnic Day, UC Davis‘ annual open house, on Apr. 18.
University of California admissions statistics, including those for the Davis campus, can be found at ucop.edu/news/factsheets/fall2009adm.html.
ANDRE LEE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.