In 50th year, UC Santa Cruz sees unprecedented undergraduate interest

For the first time in its history, more than 50,000 students have applied for admission, including a 10 percent increase in California students.

Students walking across campus
UC Santa Cruz attracted a record 45,534 applications from high school seniors and 8,799 applications from transfer students. (photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)

A record number of undergraduate students have applied to the University of California, Santa Cruz, a testament to 50 years of boundary-pushing research and of developing students who are driven to make a difference in the world.

Nearly 55,000 prospective undergraduates applied for the fall 2015 quarter, an 11 percent increase from the previous year, and the second highest percentage increase among the UC campuses.

UC Santa Cruz attracted a record 45,534 applications from high school seniors and 8,799 applications from transfer students–also an all-time high–during the application cycle that closed Nov. 30, according to data released today by UC's Office of the President.

"As the campus begins a year-long celebration of its 50th anniversary, it's fantastic to see interest in UC Santa Cruz reaching these levels," said Michael McCawley, director of admissions. "Students from California and around the world now know UC Santa Cruz will both prepare them for the next phase of their lives, while also offering opportunities for personal growth."

The campus saw a 10 percent increase in the number of California high school seniors applying, the second-highest percentage increase in the University of California. Interest continues to increase from out-of-state students with a 17.9 percent increase and a systemwide high of 26.1 percent increase for international students. Additionally, California transfer student applications grew by 6 percent, international applications increased by 26.7 percent, and out-of-state transfer applications remained unchanged from the previous year.

The ethnic diversity of California applicants also increased. The campus received more freshman applications this year than last from African Americans (up by 6.9 percent), American Indians (up by 3 percent), Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (up by 7.6 percent), and Chicanos/Latinos (up by 14.5 percent), continuing its recent trend. UC Santa Cruz was recently listed by as first among the top 50 colleges for Hispanic students.

"Ensuring we continue to attract and enroll students both locally and from around the world enriches the educational and cultural experience for all undergraduate students," McCawley said. "A UC Santa Cruz graduate will be well prepared to compete in today's global society, whether working for a tech company in Silicon Valley or sharing sustainable farming methods abroad.

"Our faculty, alumni, students, and staff have all played an important role in achieving these successful application numbers," McCawley said. "Prospective students and their families often come into contact with members of our campus community and our alumni, and because of those interactions, they decide to apply."

The campus is planning to enroll 1,125 new transfers, on par with this year, and 3,200 to 3,500 first-year students for the coming year, roughly 500 to 700 fewer than it did in fall 2014, in large part due to the very large incoming class this year, according to Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Alison Galloway.

"We will be reducing our enrollment to better align with current funding to ensure we do not compromise quality," Galloway said. "As a result, UC Santa Cruz will be more selective than ever before."

Undergraduate applicants will be notified of admission decisions beginning mid-March. Admitted first-year students have until May 1 to indicate their intent to enroll and transfers until June 1.

Final numbers for graduate student applications to UC Santa Cruz will not be available until after January 15. Last year, the campus received a record high number of graduate applications, and is tracking as well or better than last year.

"We offer an outstanding undergraduate experience, top-flight programs for graduate students, and tremendous opportunities for scholars and researchers across the academic spectrum," Chancellor George Blumenthal said.

This year the campus is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a series of events and lectures. UC Santa Cruz opened September 27, 1965 with 652 students and has grown to more than 16,000 undergraduate and post-graduate students. Then-UC President Clark Kerr noted Santa Cruz as "the most significant educational experiment in the history of the University of California."

The experiment has been a success. Since opening 50 years ago, UC Santa Cruz has built an international reputation with its academic accomplishments and research discoveries in areas such as astrophysics, organic farming, oceanography, human rights, genomics, and cancer research.

UC Santa Cruz ranks first in the world for the impact of its research as measured by the average number of times its faculty's published work is cited by scholars around the world, according to a survey published by Times Higher Education.

It also ranks first in the nation for the publication impact of the computer engineering Ph.D. program, by the National Research Council. Additionally, alumni have gone on to win six Pulitzer Prizes and five MacArthur "Genius" Awards.