UC’s freshman class drops 6.8%, meeting regents’ goal


Freshman enrollment at the University of California will be 6.8% lower this fall, a drop of 2,603 students from last year that closely matches a reduction the university sought because of budget shortfalls, UC officials said Tuesday.

In all, 35,435 students from California and other states have told one of UC’s nine undergraduate campuses that they intend to enroll as fall freshmen, compared with 38,038 last year.

Susan Wilbur, the UC system’s director of undergraduate admissions, said she was pleased that enrollments were close to the 6%, or 2,300, reduction the UC regents ordered and that the cuts did not disproportionately hurt any geographic and ethnic groups.


“Overall, it appears we are going to come in on target,” she said. “On the other hand, I don’t think we are ever pleased when we have to reduce access.”

In response to the regents’ action, most UC campuses cut acceptance rates. The percentage of California applicants offered entrance to at least one UC campus dropped to 72.5% this year from 75.4% last year. At UCLA, the most competitive campus, the acceptance rate was 21.4%, down from 22.1% last year.

Amid recession worries, some experts had predicted a stampede to UC and away from more expensive private colleges, but that did not occur. In fact, the so-called yield rate -- the share of accepted students who actually attend -- dropped across UC from 51.1% last year to 47.9% this year.

Wilbur said fewer students accepted UC’s offers this year partly because the admitted class had very strong high school records on average and many probably were accepted as well by prestigious private colleges, including some with generous financial aid.

The number of freshmen planning to enroll fell at five UC campuses, although it rose slightly at UC Berkeley, UC Riverside and UC Santa Barbara. Four-year-old UC Merced, the system’s smallest campus, had the largest increase, up 28%, or 295 students, to 1,341 freshmen.

Some of the UC Merced growth was from students who were rejected by other UC campuses. But officials also noted the school’s wider visibility due to its first full graduating class last month and the commencement speech there by First Lady Michelle Obama.

Although the actual numbers of enrolled students from most ethnic groups declined, the proportions for each stayed close to last year’s figures. Latinos constitute 20.4% of prospective UC freshmen, up from 19.4%; African Americans stayed the same, at 3.8%; Asians rose to 39.8% from 38.6% and whites dropped to 30.5% from 31.3%.

In 2006, the number of African American freshmen at UCLA caused much consternation when only 103 black freshmen, making up 2.2% of the class, enrolled.

By last year, the number of black freshmen rose to 235. For this fall, 201 black freshmen are expected, which is about 4.5% of the class.

Although UCLA is not happy with the decline, “we see it within a reasonable range,” said Thomas Lifka, associate vice chancellor for student academic services.