Expanding Diversity: Freshmen Selected

Hitting an all-time record high, freshman applications this fall promise UCI even more diversity on campus.

The number of transfer and freshman applications for fall 2013 hit a record high of 76,235 (including transfers) this application season, purportedly increasing UC Irvine’s diversity and prestige while posing administrative challenges for Enrollment Services.

About 61,000 students from around the world applied as freshman, in addition to over 15,000 transfer students vying to attend UCI later this year — an overall 9 percent increase over the previous year.

Irvine remains the fourth most popular campus for applicants, following Los Angeles, Berkeley and San Diego.

Brent Yunek, assistant vice chancellor for enrollment services, said the increase in applicants is primarily a result of UCI’s scholarly bona fides.

“It’s always about the academic programs, the reputation of the campus and faculty,” Yunek said.

Although administrators see increased application numbers as a positive development, the process poses logistical dilemmas, given the additional 6,000 applications that need to be processed this year.

The increased number of applications isn’t a new phenomenon. Last year, UCI saw a similar jump in the number of applicants, despite massive increases in tuition and cuts to programs and services.

Prepared for the increase, Yunek is confident that Enrollment Services will meet all of its planned deadlines. Acceptance and rejection e-mails should begin going out at the beginning of this month and will continue to do so on a rolling basis through mid-March.

To deal with the increase, Enrollment Services has also added two full-time staff to its internal application evaluation unit.

Additionally, the external evaluation unit, composed of UCI staff, faculty and high school counselors, has added another 20 seasonal workers.

Overall, Yunek said that there are about 140 workers at Enrollment Services and 120 seasonal staff in the external evaluation unit.

Still, “it’s certainly a lot to manage, no doubt,” Yunek said.

As for when the growth in applications will begin to plateau, Yunek is unsure.

“That’s a million dollar question,” he said

The fall 2013 applicant pool is also composed of a growing number of underrepresented minorities, with Latinos now composing the greatest proportion of applicants system-wide.

“I am optimistic that the rise in Latino applicants is a pattern, not an aberration,” Dr. Vicki Ruiz, professor of Chicano/Latino studies, said.

She also said that the increasingly diverse applicant pool “can be attributed to a significant degree to community partnerships” that make UCI a more appealing campus to Latino and Chicano students.

Yunek echoed the sentiment, saying that in recent years, underrepresented minorities have become more “comfortable” in Orange County.

Amongst the California-resident applications from community colleges, there was a 26 percent increase in underrepresented minorities, according to University Communications.

Professor Louis DeSipio, whose research focuses on ethnic politics, said that the trend extend well beyond just applicants.

“You can see a steady increase in the numbers of Latino students who apply to the UC, who are admitted, who accept their offers and who graduate,” he said.

UCI is also experiencing growth in geographic diversity.

There was also a 50 percent increase in out-of-state applications, as the university is now beginning to rely more heavily on out-of-state students who pay a significantly higher price for tuition.

The California Department of Finance has long predicted that the number of UC applicants, and high school graduates, would eventually plateau, but growth persists.

It is unlikely, Yunek said, that such growth will be met with more acceptance letters. Unless the State provides UCI with funding for expanded enrollment, the university will continue to become more selective — and prestigious.

“As you might expect when a campus matures and becomes a well-established, world-renowned place,” Yunek said.