One of the University of California's highest priorities is to ensure that a UC education remains accessible to all Californians who meet its admissions standards. This goal is clearly articulated in California's Master Plan for Higher Education, which calls for UC to admit all qualified freshmen in the top 12.5 percent of California's public high school graduates. It also calls for UC to admit all qualified California Community College transfer students.
Demand for a UC education has risen dramatically over the past two decades. Applications to UC have more than doubled since 1994, and campuses that used to admit almost every eligible applicant have become considerably more selective. Compared to a decade ago, students admitted today are better prepared academically, as measured by high school grades, scores on standardized tests and the number of rigorous high school courses they have taken. Over 40 percent come from populations that have historically been underserved by higher education, such as low-income families and students who are the first in their families to complete a four-year degree.
Providing undergraduate access for a rapidly growing high school population has been a compelling state and University priority. However, the state's financial pressures have impacted the University's ability to maintain access, affordability and quality. In an effort to preserve quality in a time of unprecedented state budget cuts, UC took steps to better align its enrollment with available resources, constraining entering California freshmen from 2009 to 2011. Those reductions were partially offset by increasing the number of new California Community College transfer students. Despite these reductions in freshman enrollment, UC campuses continue to enroll thousands of California undergraduates for whom it has never received funding from the state, estimated at 11,500 in 2011-12.
Despite these continuing financial pressures, the University continues to meet its Master Plan commitment to provide a space on one of the UC campuses to all California applicants who qualify for guaranteed admission and who wish to attend.
While enrollment of California students has been constrained by funding available from the state, certain UC campuses have capacity to enroll additional students. The number of nonresident domestic and international students has increased in recent years, but their proportion is still much lower than at comparable research universities. Nonresident students enrich and diversify the student body; they also pay supplemental tuition ($22,878 in 2012–13) not charged to California residents. This extra revenue enables UC to improve educational programs for all students.