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 articulated in California's Master Plan for Higher Education, which calls for UC to admit all qualified freshman applicants in the top 12.5 percent of California public high school graduates. It also calls for UC to admit all qualified California Community College transfer students.
In 2013, around 140,000 freshmen and 35,000 transfer students applied to UC. Campus admissions decisions are based on comprehensive review of the qualifications of applicants and target the incoming class size based on the capacity of classrooms, laboratories and housing.
In 2014, UC created a Transfer Action Team to examine ways to increase demand, provide access and better serve transfer students.
Admissions trends — freshmen
Freshman applications have risen dramatically over the past two decades, growing more than 5 percent per year and nearly tripling since 1994. UC relies on a comprehensive review process to make admissions decisions, including successful completion of A-G (college preparatory) courses, high school GPA and standardized test scores. In addition, UC looks beyond test scores to consider special talents, special projects and academic accomplishments in the light of life experiences and special circumstances.
With a growing number of applicants, admit rates have lowered as campuses become more selective. Despite that trend, UC continues to comply with Master Plan goals. UC accomplishes this by admitting the top 9 percent of high school graduates statewide, the top 9 percent of graduates from each high school that participates in the Eligibility in the Local Context (ELC) program, and those who meet the minimum A-G course requirements via the Entitled to Review (ETR) process. Qualified freshman applicants are offered an opportunity to be admitted to another UC campus if they do not receive an offer of admission from the UC campus to which they applied. While all campuses offer admission to out-of-state and international students, these students must meet a higher standard for academic qualifications than California residents.
Admissions trends — transfer students
Transfer applications have almost doubled over the last 20 years, reaching a high of 36,200 in 2011. Applicants dropped to 34,800 in 2012 and increased to around 35,000 in 2013.
The slight recent drop in transfer applications to UC is most likely due to the cumulative effects of state budget cuts to the community colleges. Over the past few years, the CCCs took budget cuts of $1.5 billion and lost more than 500,000 students. They have reported that the combination of reduced enrollment, limited availability of courses needed for transfer and insufficiently supported advising services have undercut student progress toward transferring.
Almost all transfer students enter UC as juniors. Campus enrollment targets are based on capacity in major programs at the upper-division level.
The University enrolls freshman and transfer students from every county of California, but students tend to apply to campuses closest to their residence. One goal of the President's transfer initiative is to increase the geographic diversity of transfer entrants.
The Master Plan specifies that the University maintain a 60:40 ratio of upper-division to lower-division students, which corresponds to a 2:1 ratio of new freshmen to new CCC transfer students. Over the past decade, UC has moved closer to that ratio, from 2.61:1 to 2.43:1. The report from the President's Transfer Action Team recommits the University to fulfilling that goal.
Compared to a decade ago, freshman and transfer entrants today are better prepared academically as measured by grades and, for freshmen, test scores and the number of college preparatory high school courses. As academic qualifications of the entering class continue to improve, UC still maintains access for populations historically underserved by higher education. More than 40 percent of undergraduates come from low-income families and/or will be the first in their families to complete a four-year degree.
The number of nonresident domestic and international students has increased in recent years, although 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 2013-14) not charged to California residents. This extra revenue enables UC to improve educational programs for all students.
At the May 2014 Regents meeting, the Transfer Action Team reported findings and recommendations designed to strengthen and streamline the transfer process, such as increased outreach, targeted communications, enhanced campus transfer services and new UC-community college partnerships.
For more information