Overflowing UCI, Cal State Recommend 2-Year Schools

Times Staff Writer

Faced with an overload of freshman applicants for next fall, Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine are encouraging the overflow to attend community colleges for a semester or two and then reapply.

The two four-year public universities in Orange County are cutting off deadlines for freshman applications earlier than before.

But in having to disappoint hundreds of applicants who had hoped to start their freshman year at UCI or Cal State Fullerton, the two universities are saying that space will be available later, when the applicants are second-semester freshmen or sophomores.

Blessing for Colleges

The referral action by the universities could be a blessing for Orange County's money-starved community colleges. All eight of the county's community colleges have suffered declining enrollment in recent years. Although some are beginning to grow again, all have plenty of room for freshmen applicants.

But no such space exists for freshmen at UCI and Cal State Fullerton, and both are trying to slow the pace of enrollment growth. UCI officials hope to limit enrollment, which was 14,532 this year, to about 15,000 students next year.

Cal State Fullerton officials hope to limit total enrollment to 25,000 next fall. This past fall, the total was 24,413.

Not Accepting Applications

UCI, overwhelmed with freshman applications, stopped accepting them four months ago. "For the first time ever, we received more qualified applicants in November than we could accommodate the following year," UCI Vice Chancellor William Parker said.

Cal State Fullerton will stop taking freshman applications today, the earliest cutoff in about 10 years.

"There's just so much space, and to go beyond that is not fair to the students," said James Blackburn, Cal State Fullerton admissions director. "Things as pragmatic as parking space or as esoteric as library room have to be considered."

Officials stressed that only freshman applications are affected. Both universities still are accepting transfer applications from students who are not first-time freshmen.

First-time freshmen who are eligible for a California State University campus must be among the top 33% of high school graduates in the state. Applicants for a University of California campus must be among the top 12 1/2% of high school graduates.

Blackburn said Cal State Fullerton is trying to encourage first-time freshman applicants not to give up if they weren't admitted for next fall.

Look to Other Campuses

"We're giving them three alternatives," he said. "We're advising them to apply to other, less-crowded CSU campuses, such as Cal State Los Angeles or Cal State Dominguez Hills. Second, we're advising them to consider community colleges. And third, we're inviting them to apply for spring semester 1988 at Cal State Fullerton." Applications for the spring semester will be accepted starting Aug. 1.

UCI is also urging applicants turned away this time to reapply for a later quarter. "We'll be offering admission in the winter or spring quarters to all students who are UC eligible and who couldn't be admitted for fall quarter," Parker said. "We'll also be guaranteeing admission to these (UC eligible) students if they enter a community college and then transfer here."

Parker said that while it is possible for a student to attend only one semester at a community college and then transfer to UCI, he doesn't recommend it. "Because so many courses are interrelated from one semester to another, I think a student should go a full year to a community college before transferring," he said.

University officials say there are more spaces open for upper-division students because many freshmen fail or drop out of school the first year. Also, upper-division students usually don't require as many laboratory and other space-consuming classes as do freshmen and sophomores.

But for UCI and Cal State Fullerton, the flood of applications continues at the freshman level.

"I don't have a very good theory on why this is happening," Blackburn said. "Maybe it's because many high school graduates in Orange County are applying to universities close to home rather than going to distant campuses. Also, it may be a factor that other CSU campuses, such as San Diego State and Cal State Long Beach and Cal State Northridge, had a number of (admission) closings, and so the students came to us."

UCI's Parker said: "A higher percentage of students eligible for a UC campus are now going to UC campuses. The state says we must accept the top 12 1/2% of high school graduates, and in the past about 5 1/2% (of those) actually applied. Now the number is up to 7.7%. Why is this percentage increasing? My guess is that anyone who is optimistic about the future knows the value of a quality education, and UC provides the best quality education for the price."

The statewide loser in the academic sweepstakes has been the community college system. While the two university systems have boomed in the 1980s, enrollment has plunged in most of the 106 community colleges in California. The drop has been most severe in Los Angeles and other counties, but Orange County community colleges nonetheless have suffered serious budget problems. The state Legislature funds community colleges according to the number of students, and fewer students mean less money.

But both Parker and Blackburn praised Orange County's community colleges.

"Orange County community colleges are far and above the norm for the state," Parker said. "We have no hesitation in recommending the community colleges in this county."

Blackburn said: "Most of Cal State Fullerton's enrollment comes from transfers from the community colleges. Sometimes as much as two-thirds of our new students each year come from community colleges. We treat our community college transfers as if they'd been here all along."

FALL ENROLLMENT

YEAR CSUF UCI 1959 452 -- 1960 1,040 -- 1961 1,570 -- 1962 2,437 -- 1963 3,628 -- 1964 4,779 -- 1965 6,426 1,589 1966 7,386 2,377 1967 8,888 2,832 1968 11,020 3,548 1969 12,890 4,474 1970 14,149 6,367 1971 15,694 6,879 1972 17,581 7,384 1973 18,759 8,363 1974 20,051 8,747 1975 21,809 9,381 1976 21,572 9,566 1977 21,714 9,355 1978 21,461 9,954 1979 21,997 10,038 1980 22,470 10,208 1981 23,284 11,057 1982 23,399 11,270 1983 22,997 11,909 1984 23,034 12,684 1985 23,445 13,567 1986 24,413 14,532

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