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UC San Diego enrollment unexpectedly passes 40,000 for first time

UC San Diego's enrollment now exceeds 40,000.
Prior to the pandemic, the UC San Diego campus was congested with about 39,000 students. Today enrollment exceeds 40,000.
(Hayne Palmour IV / San Diego Union-Tribune)

UC San Diego’s fall enrollment unexpectedly jumped by 840, pushing the campus past the 40,000 mark for the first time and close to the school’s projected capacity.

Campus officials thought enrollment might drop by 800 or so due to the impact of the novel coronavirus, which has helped cut undergraduate numbers across the country by 4%, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

But UCSD — which just began its 60th year — hit the 40,473 mark, school officials say. The campus enrolled a record 31,842 undergraduates — 1,048 more than it had in fall 2019. And graduate student enrollment came in at 8,631, a small dip over last year.

Most students are taking the majority of their classes online, including the roughly 10,000 who are living in campus housing. They’re staying in La Jolla to get a semblance of college life, even though everyone must wear masks and practice social distancing to fight the virus.

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Many students also need housing because they’re far from home. UCSD has one of the largest international student populations in the U.S.

The latest surge in growth means that UCSD is now fewer than 1,000 students away from hitting its capacity of 42,400, as laid out in a long-range plan adopted only two years ago. The school wasn’t expected to reach that number until 2035.

The capacity number will likely be adjusted upward. Even amid a pandemic, UCSD is in a construction boom that will add about 5,000 beds to campus housing, which already can handle more than 17,000 students.

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It is unclear how the enrollment situation at UCSD compares with the nine other undergraduate campuses in the University of California system. It has yet to release comprehensive data, or to report whether there’s been a major decline in foreign students, who pay twice the tuition of California residents.

But the California State University system has broken out enrollment information for its 23 campuses, and the picture is mixed.

San Diego State‘s enrollment jumped by nearly 500, to 35,578, one of its highest head counts in years. Cal State Fullerton added 1,540, reaching 41,408. And Cal State Long Beach grew by 1,286, hitting 39,360.

But San Francisco State lost 1,808 students, falling to 27,072. And Cal State San Bernardino lost 907, dropping to 19,404.

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At many schools, enrollment was largely unchanged, including Cal State San Marcos, where the head count rose 164, to 14,643.

Robbins writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.


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