UC Merced's incoming freshman class includes 173 freshman from Merced County high schools, the largest of that demographic in the school's 13 years, according to officials.
The university now enrolls 7,375 undergraduate and 592 graduate students for a total of 7,967 students — an 8.6 percent increase from 2016, as reported in the university’s fall census.
Though the 173 freshman make up the largest ever contribution to the incoming class from Merced County, the students make up just 7.5 percent of the 2,293 first-year students.
The overall numbers are better than were hoped for, according to Charles Nies, vice chancellor of students affairs. “This year we exceeded our enrollment targets thanks to increased recruitment and retention efforts across campus,” he said in a news release.
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Nearly all of UC Merced’s students hail from California, and about 75 percent of incoming freshman are first-generation college students, the university reported.
About 66 percent of incoming freshman students in 2017 are eligible for Pell Grants, a marker used to count students from low-income families. The university expects to distribute about $150 million in financial aid and scholarships during the academic year, officials said.
About 72 percent of the total undergraduate population are the first in their families to go to college and 63 percent are low-income, the largest percentage in the UC system, officials said.
UC Merced is growing in popularity, according to Chancellor Dorothy Leland said. “We continue to support our students on their academic journeys by placing a strong focus on the development of academic programs, hands‐on research opportunities for undergraduates and a growing array of student activities and amenities," she said in a news release.
Overall, graduate students comprise 7 percent of the student body, officials reported, and the campus has a goal of 10 percent by 2020.
The Merced 2020 Project to make room for 10,000 students is underway. By this time next year, three new buildings will be completed, along with a new entrance to campus, according to officials.
More than 40 new professors — hailing from universities like Harvard, Yale and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — joined the UC Merced faculty this year, officials said. That marks the largest single group of new faculty members since the campus broke ground in 2002, and brings the total number of faculty members to 260.