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blog slug reportSLUG REPORT > UC Santa Cruz gears up to welcome diverse freshman class following record-breaking application figures

For every few dozen incoming students who attended UC Santa Cruz’s freshman orientation last week, there was a “yellow-shirt” clamoring to organize them.

“Yellow-shirts,” more commonly known as orientation leaders, are nothing new at UCSC’s summer orientation week, but after a record-breaking 40,622 applications this past fall (an applicant increase of more than 17 percent since last year, second only to UC Los Angeles), these student workers were working with an evolving demographic.

UCSC will be welcoming a more diverse demographic of students this fall, due to increases in student admission of under-represented ethnicities, students who are the first in their families to attend college (called “first generation students”), graduates from lower-performing high schools, and students from low-income families.

Although more than 90 percent of applicants came from California, the school has also experienced a strong increase in out-of-state and international students, and admitted a small percentage more.

UCSC currently aims for designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) by the U.S. Department of Education. They will qualify once the UCSC academic body reaches 25 percent Chicano/Latino composition. The distinction will also grant additional funding.

Of the 28.5 percent of Latinos/Chicanos admitted this year (up 7.7 percent from 2010), the school “won’t know the actual enrollment until October,” Director of Admissions Michael McCawley says.

UCSC has recently re-invigorated their outreach with state schools, and experienced some success as a result.

“We're very pleased with the students that have indicated their intent to enroll here in the fall,” McCawley says. UCSC transitioned from a grade-point system to one of “holistic-review” in 2011, which places more emphasis on an applicant’s overall ability to succeed in college than academic statistics once did.

The school’s outreach programs start young, with some direct partnerships with primary schools, and continue to up through high school graduation. These programs are meant to serve both as a reminder to prospective applicants of what could be within their reach, as well as a stepping-stone to get them there. For many who will be enrolling this fall, these outreach programs meant just that.

Admitting many of these students will necessitate enhanced collaboration between on-campus resources such as Engaging Education, the Academic Resource Center, academic counselors and student business services.

Last year, of the more than 45 percent of students who are considered first-generation, the mean income of their families was 60 percent lower than that of non-first generation student families.

It’s a big bill to foot, but for an increasing number of applicants, the trade-off for a UCSC education is worth it, says McCawley.

“I think [incoming] students know UCSC students are actively engaged students,” McCawley says, “and they want to experience that for themselves.”

UCSC is anticipating approximately 5,000 new enrollments for fall, keeping the class size fairly consistent with past years.

PHOTO: UC Santa Cruz orientation leaders at freshman orientation. Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta.

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