University of California Enrollment Continues to Increase

The University of California Office of the President announced on Jan. 21 that undergraduate enrollment in the UC system had grown for the fourth consecutive year in Fall 2019.

For the 2019-2020 school year, the UC system enrolled 185,559 California undergraduate students across all of its campuses. This is up from the 175,630 Californian students enrolled in the 2016-2017 school year, fulfilling the UC system’s goal to enroll an additional 10,000 Californian undergraduates over the following three years beginning in 2016.

For the academic year of 2019-2020, the UC system also admitted the highest number of freshmen and transfer students in its history. 108,178 freshmen were admitted out of 176,695 applicants, while 28,752 out of 41,282 transfer applicants were accepted. Conversely, graduate student enrollment also grew for seventh consecutive year to 58,941 in the UC student body. 

In a press release, UC President Janet Napolitano spoke on the importance of enrolling more students into the university system.

“A growing student body means expanded opportunities for a new generation of young people,” Napolitano said. “The University of California is looking forward to providing these talented, hardworking students a world-class education, while expanding access for future Californians.”

The top three campuses with the largest enrollment boost are UC Riverside with an additional 1,622 students, UC Irvine with an additional 876 students, and UC San Diego with an additional 849 students from the previous school year.

According to the university’s Fall Enrollment at a Glance website, a tool that can be used to gauge enrollment with varying demographic factors, undergraduate enrollment at UCSD has increased by nearly 6,000 students in the 5-year period between Fall 2014 and Fall 2019, admitting 24,810 in 2014 and 30,794 in 2019.

Despite this growth, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported in Oct. 2019 that UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla had hoped that any enrollment increases for the San Diego campus would stay between 300 and 500 new students. 

“Chancellor Pradeep Khosla told the Union-Tribune earlier this year that he hoped enrollment would increase by no more than 300 to 500 so that the campus would have time to absorb the billions of dollars of expansion that it has carried out,” the article stated.

Despite the 300 to 500 new student goal, enrollment increased by over 800 students at the university in Fall 2019 from the previous year. This increase comes after UCSD announced in Jan. 2019 that it had broken its record for the highest number of applicants ever, receiving 118,372 applications from prospective freshmen and transfer students.

In a 2018 interview with the Union-Tribune, Khosla had stated that UCSD had not been prepared to receive as high of a number of applicants as it has gotten in recent years.

“We weren’t expecting it,” Khosla said last year. “We need to be a little more measured and controlled.”

While UCSD has been taking steps to accommodate its growing numbers with the construction of several new on campus housing developments, some argue that overcrowding is still an issue.

In the same 2019 Union-Tribune article, it was reported that UCSD had struggled in recent years with having sufficient space to house its undergraduate student body. The university made judgement mistakes in Fall 2017 and Fall 2018, which led to them scrambling to find housing for 400 and 1,200 students in those two years respectively.

UCSD Associated Students Senator Ian McKeever, who currently lives on campus, spoke to the UCSD Guardian about overcrowding at the university.

“Overcrowding at UCSD is a huge problem and will continue to be just one of the many challenges we and future students will have to face,” McKeever said. “With plans to add yet another college and to become the largest residential college in North America, it’s unclear how the administration plans on dealing with pressing issues such as parking or long wait times at campus facilities.”

Even so, the UC system as a whole anticipates continued growth in spite of any growing pains. UCOP concluded its press release by announcing that it had set a goal of granting 200,000 degrees over the next ten years.

Photo by Brendan Wilson for the UCSD Guardian.