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UC Cuts Freshman Class 7% for Fall

For the first time in four decades, the system is unable to accept all eligible students due to governor's request and budget reductions.

April 21, 2004|Rebecca Trounson and Stuart Silverstein | Times Staff Writers

Reflecting the state's budget woes and a request from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to reduce freshman enrollment, the University of California has admitted 3,368 fewer freshmen, or nearly 7%, than it did last year.

The smaller numbers who were offered fall admission mark the first time in four decades that UC was not able to accept all academically qualified in-state freshmen. UC officials said all California residents who met eligibility requirements but were not admitted were offered alternatives, including winter or spring admission or guaranteed transfers from community colleges as juniors.

"It's been a very difficult year for students. It's been a difficult year for the university," Susan Wilbur, UC's director of undergraduate admissions, said Tuesday. "We don't like turning away students."

UC accepted 46,923 California high school seniors for the fall class at one or more campuses, down from 50,291 last year, according to the annual admissions figures released Tuesday. The systemwide numbers do not include out-of-state or international admissions, which typically make up less than 10% of the student population at the state's top public university system.

Across UC's eight undergraduate campuses, meanwhile, the proportion of Latinos, African Americans and Native Americans rose slightly for the fall. But the overall percentage of those underrepresented minorities -- African Americans most sharply -- declined this year at the most competitive campuses, UC Berkeley and UCLA.

The drop was steepest at UC Berkeley, where African Americans represent 2.5% of California high school seniors admitted for the fall, down from 3.7% in 2003. At UCLA, black students constitute 2.3% of admitted California students, off from 2.8% last year and 3.3% the year before.

UC officials, student associations and advocacy groups expressed concern about the declines of minorities offered admission.

At UC Berkeley, the focus of an admissions controversy last fall, Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl on Tuesday called the figures for underrepresented students at his campus "flat-out unacceptable." Berdahl, who is retiring at the end of the school year, said he would spend the rest of his term trying to find better ways to attract and admit such students, while taking care not to violate the state's ban on racial preferences.

Wilbur said UC is examining possible causes for the declines, including student fee increases and cuts to outreach programs. She said applications from black students also fell this year, a pattern she said was reflected at other institutions nationwide.

"Is this a one-year event or a trend? We don't yet know," she said.

Overall, the year's admissions decisions were made in an atmosphere of severe budget cuts. Among other reductions, Schwarzenegger has asked UC to cut fall enrollment by 3,200 students, offering those students a promise of transferring as juniors if they attend community college for two years.

"The university is in a terrible position here, being told to reduce [admissions] when the number of qualified students is increasing," said Patrick M. Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education in San Jose. "At the end of the day, there will be no winners."

The figures released Tuesday, which are admissions offers, not actual enrollments, show that 7,600 students were offered guaranteed transfers to a UC campus if they successfully complete required coursework at a California community college. Schwarzenegger has asked that the state waive the community college fees for these students, but the Legislature has not yet acted on the proposal.

An additional 2,661 students were offered admission for the winter or spring term at a UC campus, and 1,120 students who were not accepted to study engineering at their preferred campus were given the chance to study engineering at UC Riverside.

Across the university system, admissions officials said, about 73% of those who applied were offered a slot this year, compared with about 76% last year. But UCLA and UC Berkeley each turned away about three out of every four students who applied, officials said.

Systemwide, the "unweighted" grade-point average of students admitted for the fall is up slightly from last year to 3.80, a figure that does not include the extra weight often given for honors and Advanced Placement classes.

At UCLA, admission letters for prospective freshmen were sent to about 23% of the more than 43,000 who applied. Officials said the figure once again appeared to show that the Westwood campus attracted more applications than any other school nationwide.

At UCLA, the average SAT score for the admitted class was 1353, up from 1331 for fall 2003. At UC Berkeley, the average was 1342.

Stephen L. Williams, college counselor at Eagle Rock Junior-Senior High School, said that UCLA always was a top draw for his college-bound seniors, but that more were rejected by the campus this year.

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