51st entering class distinguished by academic achievement, diversity

About 43 percent of new freshmen will be the first in their family to earn a college degree.

Jason Lopez
Jason Lopez moves a television to his Oakes College residence hall.

Through summer and on the five-hour drive from Los Angeles to Santa Cruz, Jason Lopez went through a range of feelings: anxious, nervous, nostalgic and, of course, excited.

"I always dreamed of this day, but experiencing it is something else," the first-year student said as his parents walked behind him with suitcases filled with clothes to his Oakes College room.

Lopez is one of approximately 3,600 freshmen who are part of the 51st class at UC Santa Cruz. Like 43 percent of this class, he will be the first in his family to earn a college degree.

UC Santa Cruz is also welcoming about 1,150 transfer students. The Division of Graduate Studies estimates there are about 550 new students pursuing their Ph.D. or master's degrees.

This academic year, UC Santa Cruz will have 35 new senate faculty members, bringing the campus total up to 568.

Instruction for the fall quarter begins today and welcome events continue for students as they begin their college career.

"We are very pleased to see an increase in the number of transfer students, predominantly from California Community Colleges, especially given the increased number of majors requiring students complete the major preparation coursework," said Associate Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management Michelle Whittingham.

The 51st class is distinguished by academic achievement and diversity. GPAs and SATs have increased from Fall 2014 to Fall 2015. The average GPA for incoming freshmen is 3.76, up from 3.68 and the average SAT score is 1,745, up from 1,684.

More than 3,200 of the new freshmen are from California. Additionally, 250 will come from 22 countries, and 195 from 40 states.

Nearly a third of both the 2015 freshman class (31 percent) and transfer class (33 percent) are comprised of students from ethnic backgrounds that have been traditionally underrepresented within the UC system - African-American/Black, American Indian/Alaskan Native, and Hispanic.

This fall's freshman class includes 27 percent from Hispanic or Latino backgrounds, 37 percent Asian American, 30 percent white/Caucasian, 3 percent African American/Black, 1 percent American Indian/Alaskan Native and 1.7 percent unknown.

UC Santa Cruz is a Hispanic Serving Institution member of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, with 30 percent of undergraduates identifying as Hispanic or Latino, well above the required 25 percent to qualify.

UC Santa Cruz is also dedicated to helping students pay for college. In 2014-15, 82 percent of undergraduate students received a $290 million in financial aid or campus employment. Additionally, 92 percent of UC Santa Cruz graduate students received $56 million in aid or employment.

Students moved back last week and have been busy learning about the campus. This year the campus will be housing 9,032 students on campus, up from 8,637 in fall 2014. The number of beds has increased because of completed maintenance and repair work to the exteriors and interiors at Cowell College and Porter College apartment complexes.

"It is particularly extraordinary to see these incredible new students and our returning students as we celebrate our 1965 founding this weekend," Whittingham said. "I look at the sense of inquiry and abilities each student brings with them and wonder who will return in the next several decades - or even to celebrate the centennial - to share their accomplishments, contributions and new discoveries, ultimately making a difference locally and globally like so many of our alumni."