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Doors to College Stay Open Late

Times Staff Writer

Lisa Kerr has learned her lesson: It’s never too late to get a new start -- at least in the college admissions world.

The 24-year-old traveled thousands of miles, crisscrossing the country and the world, before she figured out where her life’s calling lay. She wanted to be a nurse.

But the native of Taft in Kern County, whose journeys took her as far as Myanmar, had passed up college seven years before to join a Christian missionary group.

Returning last month to her hometown, she feared she had arrived too late to apply to a nursing program at a four-year college.

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To her surprise, she found that the public university on the other side of the Golden State Freeway, Cal State Bakersfield, was still taking freshman applications, even in the waning days of July. She applied online and a week later was admitted into the school’s nursing program. Classes start Sept. 13.

“I knew that I’d be admitted eventually,” said Kerr, who said she graduated 11th in her high school class with a 3.95 grade-point average, “but I just didn’t know it’d be so soon.”

Though most prospective college freshmen scramble to meet January deadlines for college applications and must usually make their choices by May 1, a few students end up searching late in the summer for a four-year school with openings.

They learn a not-so-well publicized fact: that there’s hope yet for latecomers, even as the first day of classes looms. Some four-year schools -- though not the most selective ones -- still accept freshman applications.

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A national survey by the National Assn. for College Admissions Counseling in May found that 240 four-year colleges and universities reported having space for freshman and transfer applications after May 1, the deadline most schools set for potential students to accept an offer of admission. The number represents about 11% of the roughly 2,300 four-year schools in the country.

Those campuses are sometimes overlooked as students pursue more popular options. Some of them are far from large urban areas and don’t have a large local applicant pool.

As a result, they still have slots and can keep the application window open longer. And they have an incentive to boost enrollment, because it brings in more money.

Though the schools in the University of California system stopped accepting applications months ago, several universities in the Cal State University system continue to admit freshmen and transfer students.

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Transfers, many of whom are community college students, constitute the bulk of late-summer applicants, said Olivia Rosas, director of admissions and student recruitment at Cal State San Bernardino. Many transfer applications arrive in August, she said, because applicants must wait for their grades from summer classes.

Still, every year she notices a few applicants trying to join the next freshman class. “They’re usually freshmen that thought they would go to community college” but changed their minds, she said.

Jeff Cook, executive director of enrollment services at Cal State East Bay, said the reasons vary. There are “people who thought they were going to a different university and at the last minute had a change of heart,” he said. “I think sometimes students think they’re going to take a year off and travel and either they or their family change their minds.”

So long as space is available and the applicants meet admission requirements, schools in the system will continue admitting new students, in some cases up until classes start, said Jim Blackburn, associate director for enrollment management services in the Cal State chancellor’s office.

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“We’re supposed to supply education to as many people as possible,” he said. “There’s no reason to artificially close it.”

Last fall, Cal State experienced a slump in enrollment in which the total fell to 397,035, nearly a 3% drop from the previous year and the first year-over-year decline since 1994.

This year, flush with the first budget increase from the state Legislature in three years -- $3.8 billion in state funding, a 5.8% increase over the previous school year -- Cal State officials announced in July that the system would be able to enroll 10,000 more students than last year, a 2.5% enrollment bump.

Cal State administrators have directed many new students to the so-called “growth campuses,” schools at which enrollment is perennially below the student population they can accommodate. Sometimes, they redirect students from more crowded Cal State campuses, such as Long Beach or Northridge.

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Some private colleges and universities also accept applications well into the summer.

“If we have the space, then we’re glad to take them,” said Marc Meredith, dean of admissions at the Otis College of Art and Design, a 1,000-student campus in West Los Angeles.

“While it’s certainly true that there are a great many schools that are done filling their classes now, I think there are some that are like us who still have room,” said Meredith, who is also president of the Western Assn. for College Admissions Counseling.

Kerr counts herself lucky to be one of about 700 freshmen starting at Bakersfield this fall. She’s headed in the direction she wants to go. She wants to provide healthcare to the poor in developing countries.

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The only problem: She’s starting college the same year as her 17-year-old brother, Daniel.

“It’s a little humbling,” Kerr said, laughing.

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Deadline dash

Cal State campuses still accepting freshman applications:

* Bakersfield: open to all majors; application deadline is Sept. 20; classes start Sept. 13.

* Dominguez Hills: open to all majors, but not accepting international applications for fall; application deadline is Aug. 26; classes start Aug. 27.

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* East Bay: open to all majors, but not accepting nonresident applications from outside the U.S. for fall; application deadline is Aug. 31; classes start Sept. 22.

* San Bernardino: open to all majors; applications accepted through the start of classes on Sept. 22.

* Stanislaus: open to all majors; applications accepted until Sept. 1; classes start Sept. 7.

Los Angeles Times

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