Understanding the Drop in Admission Rates at UC Universities

Sevilla Tovar, Editor-in-Chief

   One of the most prestigious American college systems, the University of California, has been growing increasingly restrictive in their admission rates. Limits in funding and an overload of applicants has severely impaired the school’s admission systems. Despite the UC system’s push for fair admissions, trends demonstrate that many are being turned away. 

   The drop in admission rates has become more apparent in recent years. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, in comparing the two most prestigious UC colleges, UCLA and UC Berkeley, “…both school’s admission rates have plummeted in the last three decades, with UCLA’s rate falling more dramatically than Berkeley’s in recent years. Between 2011 to 2022, UCLA’s rate dropped from 23 percent to 9 percent for California residents, while Berkeley had a more modest decrease, from 18 percent to 14 percent.” While this can’t be correlated to any single historical event, it needs to be acknowledged that the number of applicants have dramatically increased, [therefore contributing to the decreasing admission rates], the article continued (sfchronicle.com). This increased admissions drop has been seen across all UC schools, meaning students who might have been eligible are being written off. According to the Los Angeles Times, “Systemwide, admission rates [to UCs] for California students declined to 64.4 percent last fall from 65.7 percent the previous year” (latimes.com).  

   Other factors influencing the statistics include the amount of available housing and tuition. According to Forbes, “The relatively low number of California residents enrolled in UCs is due in part to stringent and highly specific admissions requirements and spatial constraints that limit enrollment on urban campuses such as Berkeley and UCLA. In addition, a lack of adequate funding has led UC schools to admit an increasing number of out-of-state and international students—who pay considerably more in tuition costs on average — in the years since the 2007 economic crash” (forbes.com). Unfortunately, the students from outside of California, with significantly higher tuitions, have the upper hand on those living in-state. With the pressure of deciding who is rejected and who is admitted amongst a group of highly qualified students, the colleges lean in favor of those with more financial obligations.

   It’s understandable that as the demand for going to a UC college increases, the supply of available spots proportionally decreases, but the inactivity among the higher populated UC campuses has created a gap between the colleges. In spring of 2023, the UC system created the Dual Admissions pilot program. Through said program, according to Forbes, “[Californian] students who have graduated with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, but have missed one or more of the subject matter requirements now have the opportunity to enroll in a California community college with the promise of admission to one of six UC schools — UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Santa Cruz — after completing specific transfer requirements.” However, the exclusion of the most recognized colleges, UC San Diego, Berkeley, and Los Angeles, inhibits the program from attracting as many students. Forbes continued, “While the program is a monumental step toward increasing access to higher education for all Californians, some have criticized the lack of participation from some of the most competitive UC schools where some allege that the need for such a program is most pressing” (forbes.com).

   Restrictions on UC admissions have become so perceptibly insurmountable that many current UC High seniors abandon the ambition. Instead, most make the more financially responsible decision of transferring from a community college. Senior Emily Dinh said, “My current post-high school plan is to go to community college at [San Diego] Mesa College and eventually transfer to a university. Being able to save thousands of dollars in tuition to be spent elsewhere in my future career is what made me want to do transfer programs.” She continued, “I feel like UC admission rates will continue to dwindle. Although I’ve come across information regarding the UC schools attempting to admit more California residents, I think the acceptance rates still continue to decline as a whole.”

   Another reason students may choose not to attend the more desirable UC schools is because of  concerns at universities such as UCLA, where the grand population has resulted in very impacted courses, or courses in high demand. The school’s newspaper, the Daily Bruin, said, “Students must take impacted courses within a certain window of time to declare their majors and take higher-level courses. But even if they’re doing everything right, the limited amount of space in these popular courses can mean they either have to spend extra quarters on campus or abandon their majors altogether” (dailybruin.com). 

   In this day and age, receiving a higher education is incredibly beneficial to achieving the American Dream. Many aspire to attend UCs for their reputation. Unfortunately, as more people wish to go, fewer people have the opportunity. Despite the obstacles, there are viable alternatives to preserve the college’s integrity while at the same time responsibly increasing the student population.