As Ventura County's new university prepares to welcome its historic freshman class, administrators are sifting through nearly 2,200 applications from high school seniors who have requested a place next fall at the Camarillo campus.
University leaders expect that many of those who qualify for admission will ultimately choose other schools, but they are gearing up to absorb a sizable wave of first-time college students when Cal State Channel Islands opens to freshmen. It opened to upper-division students six months ago.
More than half of the 2,184 potential freshmen who already applied for admission have been accepted. About 800 of those are from Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
Officials in coming months will start nailing down commitments from applicants, a key issue for the campus given looming budget cuts and the need to hire faculty and plan academic programs for next year.
"We don't want to be in the position of denying admission to any freshman now in the pool and who meets the requirement for admission," said Steve Lefevre, the university's dean of faculty. "What we're trying to do now is get a sense for how many students really want to come here."
Count Ryan Weeks among the committed.
The 17-year-old senior at Oak Park High School was the first to apply for admission to Cal State Channel Islands and was accepted in late December. He has applied to five other schools and has been accepted by four, so far.
But the future history major has all but settled on Channel Islands, saying he likes the small-college feel and the fact that it's not far from home.
"It's pretty much everything I want in a school," said Weeks, who like hundreds of others applied online. "I've heard a lot of good things about it becoming a very, very good school. And being part of the first freshman class also appeals to me."
Cal State Channel Islands has received a total of 3,024 applications for the fall from incoming freshmen and upper-division transfer students.
The fledgling campus will have room for 1,320 full-time students, an increase of about 750 over current enrollment. Officials suspect that many of the freshman applicants may choose to go elsewhere, especially since the university's lack of on-campus housing makes it a commuter school. At other Cal State campuses, about 25% of those who apply will actually end up attending.
Channel Islands officials say they are still trying to determine the ratio of freshmen to upper-division students. But they said that the university's enrollment policy -- like that of the CSU system overall -- will favor junior and senior transfers.
In fact, freshman enrollment closed Dec. 3, while upper-division enrollment remains open, although it's filling fast.
"We've had tremendous response," university President Richard Rush said. "It really demonstrates the need for this campus and validates what folks in Ventura County have been saying for years."
The campus also will accommodate about 375 students who attend a satellite branch of Cal State Northridge.
University enrollment has not been hurt by the state's budget crisis, but Rush warns that the campus is not in the clear yet.
Cal State officials have said they will try to shield the new campus as they decide how to slash $60 million in spending to help close a projected $35-billion state budget gap.
Of larger concern is the possibility of delay in adopting the budget and cuts being required after new students and programs are in place.
"We could be in a world of hurt," Rush said. "What we don't want is to get students to come here and then not have the courses and programs to offer them."
The work continues to build a first-class curriculum for freshmen. Faculty members are busy developing a general education program to complement their majors.
Business was the most popular major declared by freshmen applicants, followed by liberal studies, psychology and biology. A large contingent, 435 applicants, was undecided.
High school senior Luella Roma has decided to major in computer science, but she is undecided about where to do that next year.
Roma, a 17-year-old honors student at Channel Islands High School in Oxnard, applied at the local campus after hearing a pitch from a recruiter last year. She also applied to half a dozen other Cal State and UC schools, and so far has been accepted at San Diego State, Cal State Northridge and UC Riverside.
"There's definitely a possibility [of attending Channel Islands]," Roma said. "I'm just waiting for acceptance letters before I go check out the campuses and see which one I like best."