Waiting in the Wings

     

    This upcoming academic year marks the second year that a system-wide waitlist program has been in effect. During the admissions period, 134,029 students applied to the UC system, a 12-percent increase over Fall 2009 when there was no waitlist. In the past few years, a high admissions yield rate has led to over-enrollment.

    Across the entire UC system, overenrollment —or the number of extra students not accounted for by state funding — tops 11,000. When the new waitlist system was enacted last year, administrators like Debora Obley, associate vice president for budget operations in the UC Office of the President, hoped it would prevent the problem of over-crowded classes and housing while ensuring that all possible spots are filled.

    According to a release from the news office of the University of California, over 11,000 waitlist places were extended across all of the UC campuses last year — though only UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara actually admitted students from their respective waitlists.

    The other campuses reached target enrollments, according to Frank Wada, executive director of undergraduate admissions in UC Davis, without needing to dip into their waitlist to fill spots up.

    UCSD, for its part, offered 2,756 students an opportunity to participate in the waitlist process — only 27.8 percent accepted a waitlist spot. This yield rate will be an important indicator in the coming years to determine how many UCSD hopefuls will actually want to get on the waitlist — and eventually into the school.

    According to a March 30 article in UCSB’s Daily Nexus entitled “UCs Offer Enrollment Waitlisting,” UCSB took 17,744 — 45.5 percent — of its 42,542 freshmen applicants and 6,049 — 54.1 percent — of its 11,178 prospective transfer students in Fall 2010 from its waitlist. UC Davis offered admission to 600 students.

    This year, UCSD and UC Davis will be the only universities of the UC system to enact a transfer waitlist. UC Davis plans to have a waitlist of 800 students. These students are guaranteed housing and orientation if admitted. The details for the UCSD transfer waitlist are, however, unclear.

    UC spokesperson Ricardo Vasquez stressed that the UC system views a waitlist as an “enrollment management tool” to ensure that students have the greatest chance possible to potentially attend a UC campus. Although only two universities actually accepted applicants from their waitlists, the system is beneficial to the universities themselves. UC Irvine and UC Santa Cruz are currently considering offering transfer students waitlisting for the 2012 application period.

    One benefit of the current waitlist system is that it doesn’t leave low-income families in the lurch when it comes to financial aid. The UC Blue and Gold program guarantees funding for tuition and fees to qualified students with a family income less than $70,000. When a waitlist offer is extended to a prospective student by a particular UC campus, so is a preliminary financial aid package.

    So one of the major benefits of the waitlist program is that it doesn’t shortchange students in terms of financial aid or housing — as long as students turn in their information on time, they won’t be far behind if they are admitted.

    Students can get off the waitlist as late as July — and then have to make a quick decision on whether to attend the university. According to UC Davis, the student has only three days to make her decision to attend the school and reject all other offers.

    This is not enough time to look at financial-aid options and make the most informed decision regarding something as important as college matriculation. UCSB gives students one week, which is better, but also makes for a rushed decision. The California State University system, on the other hand, gives two weeks for a transfer decision.

    Overall, the implementation of a waitlist system has both its benefits and problems. The waitlist system for both freshmen and transfers is important to manage enrollment. For the University of California, it is profitable to have every open spot filled with students from the waitlist system.

    For incoming freshman and transfers, it provides hope of getting into a school they would have otherwise been rejected from. While the waitlist system adds stress to the admissions process that students have to face, this “second chance” at enrollment is well worth the extra work it will entail.

    Additional reporting by Bridgett Rangel-Rexford.

    Readers can contact Madeline Mann at [email protected].

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