UC’s Highest Number of Applicants With Noticeable Increase in Diversity

The popularity of the University of California (UC) is blooming. According to the data released by the university system, the number of applicants for the first-year fall admissions has hit its peak for two years in a row. An increase in applicants is in part due to a few changes the system has made: greater online outreach to students and elimination of standardized test requirements. As a result, UC’s first-year applicant number reached the highest in its history with remarkable diversity.

Although the university received the highest volume of applicants despite the pandemic, there was a drop of 12.6 percent in transfer applications across the entire UC campuses. The drop mirrors the declining trend in community college enrollment over two straight years as students choose job opportunities over education at local two-year colleges. Since population decline accounts for only some of the decrease in the community college enrollment number, there is a growing concern about the fate of those institutions.

UC has received 210,840 first-year applications with more applicants from California, other states, and overseas. The largest pool of applications is from California with 132,337 applicants, which comprises 38 percent Latinos, 31 percent Asian Americans, 21 percent white applicants, 7 percent Black students, 1 percent Native Americans, and a fractional percent of Pacific Islanders.

According to UC president Michael Drake, the University of California is a set of attractive institutions for those seeking higher education. “We are grateful to see a range of prospective students wanting to join UC, especially from a minority background, and we are seeing more of it,” he said. As Drake mentioned, UC is receiving a more diverse group of students into their campuses. An increase in applications from Black students is especially noticeable, growing at the fastest rate of 25 percent for the past two years among all minority groups. The number far surpasses the increase rate of 17 percent for other racial groups, such as white, Latino, and Asian Americans.

Fierce Competition for UC

UCLA became the most sought-after university in the U.S., receiving 149,779 applications. Photo: UCLA Newsroom

The fame of UCLA is attracting students with higher competency and stronger credentials. The number of UCLA applicants, who finished high school in the top 9 percent of their class, has increased by over 32 percent. Despite the skyrocketing competition for UCLA admissions, the school saw the largest number of applications in the U.S. with 149,779 applicants. Responding to the historic high demand, Youlonda Copeland-Morgan, vice provost for enrollment management at UCLA, announced that the school will accept more in-state students this fall.

Similarly, there are movements toward accepting more students at other UC schools. California Governor Gavin Newsom and the state legislators amended the state budget bill to induce UCLA, UC Berkeley (UCB), and UC San Diego (UCSD) to accept more in-state students in place of the out-of-state applicants, by filling in the loss of the higher tuition paid by nonresident students. It is expected that the amendment will allow approximately 900 more California students to enroll. The 2022-23 budget proposal by Newsom also contains funding for about 6,200 more in-state students across the UC systems this coming fall.

Copeland-Morgan said, “While more applicants means there’s greater competition, we are still very excited […] about the fact that we will be able to offer admission to a larger number of students because our California target is higher.” Last year, UCLA received 84,182 first-year applicants, with only 8,436 California students receiving an offer. Although there will be an increase in California student admissions, she is unaware of the exact figure.

Although the application numbers across the U.S. have fallen, it was a different story for UC. Olufemi Ogundele, dean of undergraduate admissions at UCB, said, “Here at Berkeley, we saw even more of an increase than our peers. The diversity of our applicant pool continues to be strong, and we remain a top choice for incredibly talented scholars.” The school saw an increase of 13.6 percent in applicant numbers, with 40 percent of resident applications from a low-income background, first-generation college seekers, or underrepresented minority groups.

UC Berkeley is facing a legal challenge by a group of Berkeley residents. The outcome can leave the school with 3,050 fewer enrollment openings. Photo: UC Berkeley

However, Berkeley is currently faced with a lawsuit by a group of Berkeley residents accusing the school of failing to provide enough on-campus housing to its increasing number of non-California students. Although a bill was passed to give the university some time to comply with the law, the legal quarrel has not concluded yet. If UCB fails to make changes in accordance with the law of the state, it will end up with 3,050 fewer seats for incoming first-year and transfer students than originally planned for fall 2022.

In fact, the glorious story of UC has begun just last year. UC had experienced a declining number of applications for two years in a row in 2019 and 2020, which the experts believed to be reflective of plummeting birth rates and fewer high school graduates nationwide. However, the trend drastically shifted to the opposite with the record-breaking number of applicants in 2021, following the university system’s decision to eliminate ACT and SAT scores for admissions. UC admission staffs also credit their strategy to expand on online recruiting efforts for their two consecutive years of admission outcomes.

Shifting to Online

For example. UC Irvine (UCI) has reaped the benefits of its effort to utilize online recruiting — it has received applications from 57 out of 58 counties in California, the broadest coverage of its residing state. Dale Leaman, executive director of undergraduate admissions at UCI, underlined the difficulty of recruiting prospective students in rural regions in the past. Namely, Irvine had previously been put in a disadvantaged position compared to local universities to attend college fairs in a rural location.

He said, “A virtual environment, where even the local colleges are virtual, evens the playing field for everybody and we really were able to take advantage of that.”

UC Irvine has made successful efforts to recruit prospective students online, receiving applications from 57 out of 58 counties in California. Photo UC Irvine

The positive feedback of schools’ efforts to increase online outreach to students is felt at other UC campuses. UCSD experienced a more than 10 percent increase in first-year applications compared to the previous year, drawing the most in-state applicants after UCLA. While UC Santa Barbara attracted the most white applicants, UCLA received the highest number of applications from Latino and Black students. Irvine also saw the largest number of first-generation college applicants from California and Asian American students.

Meanwhile, the impact of the pandemic is sweeping the admission process across the country. According to Leaman at UCI, a greater number of applicants this cycle submitted transcripts with more pass or no pass marks instead of traditional letter grades. He advised transfer students to thoroughly check admission requirements for certain majors, especially on what courses must present letter grades to be considered for admission.

Jim Rawlins, associate vice chancellor for enrollment management at UC San Diego, elaborated on the school’s comprehensive application review process to take challenges posed by the pandemic into account. He said, “This year we would expect to include the impact of the pandemic on applicants — from access to technology for online learning to caring for family members, the challenge of maintaining extracurricular activities and everything in between.”


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