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UCI Enrollment at Record Level

Biggest jump is in graduate students, lured by recruiters, grants and greater opportunities.

October 23, 2002|Jeff Gottlieb | Times Staff Writer

Enrollment at UC Irvine has hit record levels this fall, jumping by the largest number of students since the university opened in 1965.

The increase was propelled by an 11.7% gain in graduate students over last year, the result, in part, of efforts by campus officials to raise their numbers and the trend for people to seek advanced degrees when the job market is tight.

Total UCI enrollment increased 8.7%, to 23,779, university officials announced Tuesday. Undergraduate numbers rose 8.6%, to 19,401.

UCI's increase ranks it third in rate of growth among University of California campuses generally regarded as expecting the greatest expansion in the next few years as the number of college students grows. UC Riverside enrolled 10.4% more students this fall than last, and UC San Diego grew 9.1%.

UCI has been projected to gain about 1,000 students a year until 2010, when enrollment is expected to hit 30,000. UC Riverside is planned to grow from its current enrollment of almost 16,000 to 21,000.

Adding graduate students has been a goal of all UC campuses. A commission appointed by UC President Richard Atkinson and the regents last year said the system needed to add 11,000 graduate students and to spend an additional $215 million annually to remain competitive with major research campuses around the nation.

UCSD increased its graduate student population by 10.7%.

UCI's 11.7% marks the second year of substantial growth in graduate students; last fall saw an 8% increase.

"Actions of the last couple of years are beginning to pay off," said William Parker, UCI dean of graduate studies.

He also credited expanding graduate opportunities, such as a new program in biomedical engineering and increased recruiting.

Another key, he said, was adding $7.5 million for teaching and researching assistantships and for fellowships, helping the school lure promising students away from other institutions. This is in addition to $4.5 million added last year.

The number of graduate students at UCLA also increased this year, but the numbers were unavailable Tuesday. Jim Turner, UCLA's assistant vice chancellor for graduate studies, said that the number of applicants increased 22% and that he expected 150 to 200 more students than last year.

UCI's increase in students is the highest percentage since 1973, when the then-8-year-old campus increased its student body 13.3%.

This year's enrollment growth surprised UCI officials, who expected a gain of 5% to 6%, said Manuel Gomez, vice chancellor of student affairs.

Some of the undergraduate gain came from an increase in community college transfers, nearly 9% more than the previous year. The university has long had partnerships with local community colleges, guaranteeing acceptance to students who completed their first two years at the two-year schools.

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