UC Riverside, long considered a consolation prize by students not admitted to more coveted campuses, registered the biggest increase in applications this year among the University of California's nine undergraduate campuses, officials announced Friday.
The Inland Empire's surging growth in applicants in the last two years prompted officials there to announce that it would no longer accept referral pool students — those eligible to attend UC but who fail to win admission to their preferred campuses. Beginning this fall, UC Riverside will only accept students who apply to the campus directly.
The Riverside campus received 34,290 applicants this year, an increase of 13.2% from last year and 25.9% since 2009. Overall, the UC system received a record 142,235 applications, an increase of 6.1% from last year.
Susan Wilbur, UC's director of undergraduate admissions, said the university expected to admit all eligible applicants this year and maintain its 31,500 freshman enrollment target for California residents, despite the $500-million budget cut proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown.
"We are committed to finding a space for everyone," she said.
The number of international freshman applicants grew by 22.5% after more aggressive recruitment by cash-strapped UC campuses that benefit from the additional fees paid by nonresident students. Wilbur said they will not affect placements for California residents, whose numbers are set by the state.
The university also reported an 18% increase in the number of Latino applicants this year, the largest among various ethnic groups. Calling the increase "really, really good news," Wilbur said the university has stepped up its outreach to low-income and low-performing schools, including recruiting visits by UC President Mark G. Yudof to Watsonville, Monrovia, Sacramento and Anaheim.
At UC Riverside, Jim Sandoval, vice chancellor of student affairs, called his campus' growing selectivity — and its decision to stop accepting referral students — "a significant milestone."
He attributed the change partly to a more aggressive marketing campaign in the last few years.
"We have the same caliber and quality of faculty as other campuses, but we have not been effective in marketing that," Sandoval said. "In visits with families, there was very little knowledge about UC Riverside."
UC San Diego and UC Merced also experienced double-digit growth in applications, at 13% and 10.8%, respectively, from last year.
The most popular UC campus remained UCLA, which received 81,235 applications. UC San Diego passed UC Berkeley as the second most popular campus with 70,474 applications.