UC system receives less freshman, more transfer applications

Infographic showing UC applications decline in freshman admits, rise in transfer admits
Helen Xu/Senior Staff

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The UC system experienced a decrease in freshman applications for a second consecutive year while the number of transfer applications rose, according to data released by the UC Office of the President, or UCOP.

Across the UC system, the number of freshman applications decreased by 2.5% and transfer applications rose by 4.7%. According to UCOP spokesperson Stett Holbrook, the decline in freshman applications may reflect the California Department of Finance’s projection of declining numbers of high school graduates in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years.

Holbrook added that this number is predicted to rise again in 2020-21.

Other possibilities for the decrease in freshman applications include students applying to fewer schools and the California College Promise Grant, Holbrook said.

“The California Promise grant offers first-time, full-time students up to two years of tuition-free education at the California Community Colleges,” Holbrook said in an email. “That’s an attractive program for students who plan to transfer to UC or CSU as juniors.”

Freshman applications to UC Berkeley increased by 0.77%, and transfer applications rose by 7.09%. According to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore, overall applications have risen.

“Our application numbers have climbed for many years now and we continue to get nearly 90,000 applications for freshman admission alone,” Gilmore said in an email.

Demand for a UC education has grown through the past decades, according to Zach Bleemer, a campus doctoral candidate and research associate at the Center for Studies in Higher Education. While about 10% of 18-year-olds in California applied to the UC system in the mid-1990s, today that percentage has roughly doubled.

“The dramatic change has been that while the UC has grown at the pace of California’s population, demand has far expanded,” Bleemer said.

According to Bleemer, there is “no concern” that fewer students are applying to the UC system for educational quality purposes — rather, students may be pulling away due to a lack of seats available.

According to ASUC External Affairs Vice President Varsha Sarveshwar, who also serves as the UC Student Association president, the decline in freshman applications is notable. Sarveshwar said she believes the data may reflect the UC system’s “perceived financial unaffordability” and a perception of the UC system’s selectivity deterring applicants.

Bleemer added that the increased number of transfer applicants may be due to increases in the population, as well as increasing numbers of UC-eligible community college students and a California policy that all such students are guaranteed a spot at a UC campus.

“The increased number of transfer applications is great news,” Sarveshwar said in an email. “Transferring from community college to a UC campus is a much more financially accessible way to get a four-year education for many Californians.”

Maya Akkaraju is the lead higher education reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @maya_akkaraju.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that freshman applications to UC Berkeley decreased by 1.7% and that transfer applications to UC Berkeley increased by 6.3%. In fact, freshman applications increased by 0.77% and transfer applications increased by 7.09%.