A New Hook for Hopefuls

Kim Cyprian/Guardian

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA — Last week, the UC Board of Regents announced that freshman applicants will be placed on waitlists for the first time beginning Fall 2010. Their reasoning: Over-enrollment at the nine undergraduate campuses must be curbed.

Although waiting an extra month or two for a final decision will be stressful for all those on the waitlist, the new admission method will allow for a few more students to squeeze into otherwise-wasted spots — a more solid variable for a system dangerously stretched past its maximum capacity.

UCSD saw a 2.3-percent increase in applications from Fall 2009 to Fall 2010. Even more devastating was a 4.3-percent rise in applicants systemwide. It’s obvious we’ve got some serious overpopulation problems on our hands — especially while the university tries to cram 15,000 more students into lecture halls than it can adequately support with plummeting state funds.

The regents figure that a waitlist of roughly 1,000 students across the entire UC system will allow campuses the flexibility of staying within enrollment targets while still upholding their famous top-students admission guarantee.

Last year during application season, the UC system reduced enrollment by 2,300 students — admitting about 74,000 students, 34,000 of whom enrolled, over 2,000 students fewer than in 2008. Before the 2006 economic crash, the UC system was able to accommodate any miscalculations; however, cut after cut to the budget has left the university with little room for error.

Under the new waitlist system, however, the UC admissions departments can wait until the university’s 2010-11 budget becomes more clear this spring, and enroll waitlistees based on how much money the state hands over.

It’s a practical move. Private colleges such as Princeton University and Boston College are making their waitlists longer to cushion unpredictable acceptance rates. In today’s economic environment, more and more students are turning away from private schools and toward public universities. Waitlists will allow each UC branch to maximize the admission of students who actually want to attend that campus, while avoiding risky spikes in overenrollment.

And the news could be worse for applicants. Last week, the UC Office of the President announced that the UC system was planning to cut enrollment by an additional 2,300 students for the 2010-11 academic year. But they partially took back the evil last week, announcing that the university isn’t planning to cut enrollment quite so drastically — instead opening up the waitlist option.

There are, of course, some drawbacks to the waitlist. One campus might miss out on a $150 Statement of Intent to Register deposit fee if a student decides to hold out for a campus where he’s waitlisted. Then there’s the mental well-being of high-school seniors to consider. Students holding out to hear from a particular UC campus may hold off on community-college enrollment, only to be dealt a second disappointing letter from their university of choice. Then, considering the intense cuts to state and community colleges, their plan B school might not have room for them either.

Not knowing whether one is accepted or rejected can also make the financial planning essential to a college career even more excruciating. The regents have yet to figure out how students admitted from waitlists will receive financial aid; and if the university plans to model its system after schools like Occidental College, students accepted from the waitlist would not receive financial aid. As the UC budget is gouged deeper and deeper, by the time waitlisted students are accepted, the aid well will likely have dried up. Cutting financial aid for waitlisted students could endanger the heavily touted Blue and Gold Plan, and have a devastating effect on those poorer families it currently protects.

In order to ensure equal financial aid for waitlisted students, campus aid offices will have to do a lot of research and pre-planning to calculate how many students will be taken off the waitlist, and therefore how many will need aid. Projections may seem simple enough, but recent years have seen some painfully off-point yield rates. In 2008, for instance, the university enrolled 1,800 more students than in 2007 — necessitating a drastic enrollment cut of 2,300 the following year.

The UC waitlist plan might put the system’s finances at an even greater disadvantage, but it’s worth the risk if the university can enroll as many students as possible. It’s the system’s mission to offer admission to all those who qualify, and in order to maintain its integrity during this recession, it might have to cut a few corners along the way.

In the end, the waitlist idea might be canned altogether if Gov. Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget — which allots $53.4 million to the UC system — doesn’t pass. If we don’t receive at least that much money, those would-be 2,300 waitlisters will simply get the boot. Sad as that would be, the university’s No. 1 priority is not stuffing its lecture halls past maximum capacity. But granted we receive the better budget line, giving students a temporary “maybe” will provide the university’s shaky enrollment situation the legroom it needs; and why deny a few hundred more students a raffle ticket to their dream school?

Additional reporting by Cheryl Hori.

Readers can contact Daniel Macks at

[email protected].

More to Discover
Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$210
$500
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$210
$500
Contributed
Our Goal