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Applications soar at UC Merced

UC Merced has received a total of 10,180 applications for Fall 2008 semester enrollment, a 15.4 percent increase over applications received one year ago.

The numbers were released Tuesday by the University of California Office of the President as a part of a larger report of application counts at the system’s nine campuses (UC San Francisco was not included in the report).

UC Merced received 9,084 applications for freshman enrollment and 1,096 applications for transfer enrollment — in increase from 8,022 and 796 applications received in Fall 2007 respectively.

Kevin Browne, UC Merced’s assistant vice chancellor of enrollment management, said the number of applications bodes well for the university, particularly because it’s the highest number of applications the school has received since opening its doors in 2005.

Browne attributed much of the increase to the school’s outreach efforts targeting high school and community college students statewide who are considering their higher education options. For example, Browne said the university recently hired outreach staff, based in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, to help spread the word about the opportunities at UC Merced outside of the San Joaquin Valley. “There are (about) 1,200 high schools in California and over 113 community colleges. And it just takes a while to get to those places,” Browne said.

Browne projects UC Merced will extend offers to about 75 percent of students who sent application, although he acknowledged that “is kind of hard to project because we have not read (all the applications) yet.” The university will begin sending acceptance letters in mid-to-late February, Browne said.

Student enrollment at UC Merced in the Fall 2007 semester was reported at 1,871 students. Browne said officials hope to enroll about 900 new freshman students in the Fall 2008, with a goal of about 2,500 total students. Incoming freshmen students who are accepted will have until May 1 to accept or decline the offer, while transfers have until June 1. Browne said UC Merced is still receiving applications from students in unique circumstances, such as students who were affected by wildfires in Southern California last year.

Out of the nine UC schools listed in the report, UC Merced still trails behind some of the system’s older and larger campuses, in terms of the number of applicants. For example, UC Davis received a total of 48,653 applications for the Fall 2008 semester, while UC Riverside received a total of 25,370 applications.

Still, Browne said UC Merced is doing better during its first years, in terms of student enrollment, than the systems newer schools when they first opened. “If you look at (UC) Santa Cruz, Irvine and San Diego, their growth in year three was about half of where we actually are,” Browne said.

The increase in applications is also good news for UC Merced because low enrollment has been a recurrent issue. Campus officials initially estimated a first-year student population of 1,000 students, but ended up with 865. The university's original growth plan projected a fall 2006 population of 1,800 students, with 1,000 returning students and 800 new ones.

The entire University of California system received a total of 121,005 applications for the Fall 2008 semester. The report stated that 95,201 applications are for freshmen enrollment, while 25,804 are from transfer students.

To qualify for admission to any University of California campus, undergraduate students must have a minimum grade point average of 3.0, with priority given to the state’s top 12.5 percent of graduating high school students. Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsun-star.com.

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