UC Merced applications on the rise; space an issue

Growth to slow down as challenges are met

yamaro@mercedsunstar.comJanuary 19, 2013 

— UC Merced undergraduate applications for the fall 2013 semester saw a 14.2 percent increase compared with last fall, according to data released Friday by the UC Office of the President.

That's good news for UC Merced officials, but it also presents challenges given the shortage of physical space on campus.

J. Michael Thomp- son, assistant vice chancellor for enrollment management at UC Mer- ced, said the university will slow down its enrollment growth once again this fall because of lack of space. It will limit its projected enrollment increase to about 300 additional students, which would bring its total student body to 6,000 for the next school year.

UC Merced's goal is to reach an enrollment of 10,000 students in the next 10 years.

The young campus will continue to grow only by about 300 students for the next several years.

Officials don't want to compromise the quality of education for students by adding students too quickly, Thompson said. "We are seeking to grow ourself in a moderate fashion moving forward," he added.

The number of fall admission applications for the UC system was at an all-time high, officials also announced Friday. The system's nine campuses saw an increase in freshman applications compared with last year ranging from 9.7 percent to 16.9 percent.

UC Merced was among the campuses that saw one of the largest increases in freshman applications. It received 14,966, which represents a 16.6 percent increase from fall 2012, data show.

Transfers are up, too

The number of transfer applications for UC Merced went up to 2,225 from 2,216 last fall.

Freshman and transfer applications from the San Joaquin Valley increased 27 percent, officials said. Applications from the greater Los Angeles area increased 18.5 percent and those from the San Francisco Bay Area increased 6.2 percent.

"We are gratified that the quality continues to increase in our application classes," Thompson said. "We are pleased with the geographical distribution."

UC Merced also continues to attract a large percentage of low-income and first-generation students, he said. The university also continues to focus most of its undergraduate recruitment efforts in California to provide access to students in the state.

This fall, the campus will enter its second year offering the Gateway Scholarship of up to $2,000 for as many as 30 Merced High School students who chose to attend UC Merced, Thompson said.

The funds come from an anonymous donor, he added.

UC Merced also saw a 41 percent increase in its graduate-student applications received to date, officials said. They rose to 362 from 256 last fall.

Chris Kello, acting dean of graduate studies at UC Merced, said that's a little higher than what officials were expecting, but they weren't surprised.

The increase is a result of a combination of two factors, he said: time and word of mouth about what UC Merced has to offer and officials advertising its graduate programs as well as reaching out to the best qualified applicants.

They conduct recruiting efforts within the state, across the country and internationally, he said.

UC Merced's division of graduate studies is trying to pursue two goals -- it wants to provide the same level of research training and experience as the other UC campuses, but it also wants to distinguish itself from them, Kello said.

The campus, which is still relatively new and small, provides the opportunity for more interaction between students and faculty, he said. Not only within a program, but across different programs, he added.

UC Merced offers 12 graduate programs, Kello said.

The vast majority of students will receive their admissions letter from UC Merced in mid-February, Thompson said.

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or yamaro@mercedsunstar.com.

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