A student seeking admission to the University of California beginning in 1986 will be permitted for the first time to apply to several campuses at once.
The new policy, announced quietly last week, is designed to prevent top-notch students from being "bumped out of the system" because they fail to get into the overcrowded UC Berkeley and UCLA campuses.
"This is a major change for the university, and we think it will relieve the pressure on students and their parents," said Alice Cox, the university's assistant vice president for student academic services.
Under the current system, students apply to only one campus. If they are not accepted at that one, they are "redirected" several months later to a campus that still has openings.
Since 1980, however, the number of students applying to the eight UC campuses has nearly doubled, with the result that only UC Riverside and UC Santa Cruz have had the space to absorb the overflow applicants.
In many cases, students with nearly straight-A averages were bumped when they applied to popular programs like engineering and computer science at UC Berkeley and UCLA. In the interim, the "second-choice campuses," UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, UC Davis and UC Irvine, filled up.
As a result, "large numbers of highly qualified students . . . were faced with the prospect of attending their fifth- or sixth-choice campus," Cox said. Many simply gave up on attending the University of California.
Not surprisingly, their parents have complained loud and long to legislators and university officials about the application system. Under pressure, university officials have agreed to set up what will be for them a more complicated procedure.
Next November, the month during which UC applications must be made, high school seniors can file a single application and ask to be considered at as many of the eight campuses as they choose. The application fee of $35 will cover two selections. An extra $20 will be charged for each additional choice.
"Students really haven't had a second or third choice (under the current system), so this will be a big advantage for them and their parents," said James Dunning, admissions director at UC Irvine. "For us, it means an increased work load, and more uncertainly and competition among the campuses."
He noted that students might apply to all the Southern California campuses and be accepted at most or all of them. But a campus like Irvine will not know until May 1 how many students will actually enroll there. Students may then shop for the campus that will give them the most financial aid or the best housing, Dunning said.
"Berkeley has taken a lot of heat from the 3.9 students (4.0 is a straight-A average) who were bumped out of the system. But this system is going to be a real burden on us," Dunning said.
Donald Olson, a college counselor at University High in Los Angeles, said he believes that the new system will create "mass confusion" next year as the various UC campuses try to decide how many students to admit.
"They aren't going to know who is going to show up, so some will probably end up overloaded and some will come up short," he said.
"But it's great for the kids. And it will be a lot easier for me," Olson said. Previously, students, on the advice of counselors, had to gamble on selecting the campus that would accept them. Since UCLA has been overflowing with applications, Olson said, many counselors had urged students to bypass that campus and apply directly to a second choice, like Santa Barbara. Last year, as a result, applications to the Santa Barbara campus jumped by 46%.
In the coming year, Olson said, good students will be able to apply to Berkeley and UCLA as well as to other campuses, "because there's no risk in trying."