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So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

Good news? More students want to go to UC schools; Bad news? More will be turned away

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The University of California released its applications numbers for fall 2012 today. Maybe not the most exciting reading, but here are some interesting highlights:

Applications are up across the board from in-state, out-of-state and international students. Kate Jeffery, UC's interim director of undergraduate admissions, attributed this to a general trend across the nation of students "hedging their bets and not just applying to private institutions" any more.

In numbers:

  • UC saw a 56 percent increase in freshman applications from out-of-state and international students, which brought the applicant figures up from 21,095 to 33,001 for fall 2012. (Out-of-state applicants went from 12,759 to 19,128 and international applicants from 8,336 to 13,873.)
  • Apps from California residents were up 9.8 percent to 93,298. ("From the point of view of affordability, students affected by the economy may be considering UC instead of just a private education," Jeffery said.) Jeffery also said the increase might be because of the system's decision to drop the SAT II subject test requirement for applicants this year.
  • Overall, there was a record high of 160,939 students who applied to UC, up 13.2 percent from last year. UCLA specifically saw a 12.7 percent increase in apps, with freshmen apps specifically up by 19.1 percent.

UC, which has long been lauded as one of the country's premier public higher education systems, has worked hard to increase applicants of non-Californians as each out-of-state or international student brings in about $23,000 in additional tuition fees.

Jeffery said the increase in non-Californian applicants will allow campuses to be more selective about who is admitted and ensure they meet or exceed the academic profiles of California residents. (Most international apps came from China, Korea, India and Canada, Jeffery said.)

"The reality is, we would love it if we could allow more California students, but we simple don't have the money for that," said UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein.

Klein said the system enrolls 11,000 students for which it receives no state funding and that has forced the system to raise tuition fees to help cover costs. Tuition fees have sharply increased by roughly 57 percent since the 2007-8 academic year, when it cost $7,734 to go to a UC school and now costs $12,192 this year.

But many applicants may be disappointed given the 10-campus system's budget constraints as well as a policy to cap enrollment of non-resident students at 10 percent. Right now about 6.9 percent of its undergrad population is from outside California.

"What's happening for the coming year is there's going to be a lot of sad faces around," Klein said. "It's great news that we have this increase of applications, but we're also going to have an increase in disappointed students."

Gov. Jerry Brown's 2012 proposed budget could cost the UC system another $200 million in cuts if voters do not approve tax increases the governor is trying to get on the November ballot (this after about $750 million last budget year — including a mid-year trigger of $100 million).

UC officials are in discussion with people in Brown's administration about long-term funding for the system, Klein said. Roughly 11 percent of the system's $22.5 billion annual budget comes from the state's general fund. But that money is pivotal because it goes straight toward educating students, Klein said.

Budget issues also appear to have played into a drop in transfer student applications. Those went down 4.2 percent from last year. Apps from California community college students, which is the largest group of applicants for transfer admissions, dropped 5.7 percent. Jeffery said it was likely due to a "pipeline issue" — as California's community colleges have been hit by millions in budget cuts, students have had trouble getting into the necessary courses to transfer.

Last year, 137,000 students could not get into a single course, said Paul Feist, vice chancellor for communications for the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office. The system has 112 campuses serving 2.6 million students statewide, and is the world's largest community college system.

The governing board of the California Community Colleges approved a set of reforms earlier this week that aim to streamline the path to student graduation, certificates and transfers.

Another interesting tidbit: "Chicanos/Latinos" made up a greater percentage of applicants (at 30.1 percent) than whites. Asian-Americans still make up the largest ethnic group at 32.2 percent of the application pool.

Campuses are still in the process of determining their enrollment figures for the next school year, officials said. But Jeffery said it was unlikely enrollment would increase given the system's budget constraints.

Freshman applicants should hear back on initial admissions decisions by the end of March, transfer applicants by the end of April, and all should know where they stand by the end of May. 

Tami Abdollah can be reached via email and on Twitter (@LATams).

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