UC Merced said total enrollment for the current semester is 5,198, exceeding 5,000 students for the first time, thanks to the largest freshman class in the young campus' history.
The total marks an increase of nearly 19 percent over last year, confirming steady demand for the newest UC campus and illustrating the need for increased funding for new facilities. It's also just two students shy of the 5,200 projected for next year in the three-year funding agreement signed with the UC Office of the President in 2010.
"The university is pulsing with excitement as students fill every corner of the campus, including the new Social Sciences and Management Building," Jane Lawrence, vice chancellor for Student Affairs, said in a news release. "In addition to surpassing the 5,000 milestone for total enrollment, we are welcoming one of the strongest freshman classes in the campus' history."
The total enrollment reflects an influx of 1,681 new students, including 1,444 freshmen, 174 transfer students and 63 graduate students. According to statistics from UC Merced's Institutional Planning and Analysis, some 60 percent of undergraduates are first-generation students -- those whose parents did not earn a college degree.
"That (enrollment) number is going to put to rest any lingering impressions that the campus isn't an attractive place for students," Lawrence told the Sun-Star. "The president of the UC, Mark Yudof, has made it clear that UC Merced is part of the UC system and will continue to be a research institution -- and will continue to be a research institution that expands as we add more faculty and students."
A highly qualified student population is increasingly becoming a hallmark of UC Merced, according to the news release. The average GPA of the incoming class is 3.4. The university has welcomed 29 new Regents Scholars, who were awarded scholarships based solely on their academic and personal achievements.
The student body at UC Merced is also geographically diverse. Undergraduates from the San Joaquin Valley represent the largest percentage of the total enrollment, at about 30 percent. About 28 percent come from the greater Los Angeles area, and nearly 27 percent are from the Bay Area.
The university's graduate student admissions continue to rise as well. The 260 graduate students enrolled this fall represent a 7 percent increase over last year, and 88 percent of them are pursuing doctoral degrees.
"Even in a difficult economic environment, students continue to see the value of a UC Merced education," Lawrence said in the release. "We are thrilled that they have decided to call our campus home."
The vice chancellor also said that, once the recession recedes, "more venture capital and business will come" to the area because of the university's presence.
Ethnicity data on student enrollment are pending review from the Office of the President.
Executive Editor Mike Tharp can be reached at (209) 385-2456 or firstname.lastname@example.org.