One of the University of California’s highest priorities is to ensure that a UC education remains accessible to all Californians who meet its admissions standards. This goal is articulated in California’s Master Plan for Higher Education, which calls for UC to admit all eligible freshmen and transfers, with freshman eligibility designed to capture the top 12.5 percent of California public high school graduates. It also calls for UC to admit all eligible transfer students from California Community Colleges (CCCs) who apply.
Of the over 215,000 applications for admission in fall 2020, about 172,000 students applied as freshmen and 43,000 as transfers. Campus admission decisions are based on a comprehensive review of qualifications and establish the incoming California resident class size based on State funding. Over the last five years, UC’s total undergraduate enrollment of California residents increased by more than 18,000: 1,500 in fall 2020, 2,500 in fall 2019, 3,000 in fall 2018, 4,000 in fall 2017, and 7,000 in fall 2016.
For 2020–21, UC is also estimated to have achieved its enrollment capacity goal of enrolling a 2:1 systemwide ratio of freshman to transfer California resident undergraduates, excluding Merced, for the fourth year in a row. The UC Transfer Pathways program supports this goal by helping community college students prepare for transfer admission to the most popular majors at UC campuses. Under a new agreement with the California Community Colleges, UC has created a Transfer Guarantee program, Pathways+, for community college students who meet certain criteria. This campus and major guarantee accompanies and is complimentary to UC's systemwide transfer guarantee program. The first cohort for the Pathways+ program is expected to enroll in fall 2021.
ADMISSIONS — FRESHMEN
UC utilizes a comprehensive review process to make admission decisions, considering not only completion of rigorous college preparatory courses and high school GPA, but also talents, special projects, accomplishments in light of life experiences and circumstances, extracurricular activities, and community service.
The rapid growth in freshman applications to UC over the past two decades demonstrates the increased demand for a college education, the growth of California’s population, and UC’s continued popularity. UC continues to reach its Master Plan goals by guaranteeing admission to California resident applicants who are either in the top nine percent of high school graduates statewide or the top nine percent of graduates from their own high schools. Qualified freshman applicants are offered an opportunity to be admitted to another UC campus if they do not receive an offer of admission from the UC campuses where they applied.
ADMISSIONS — TRANSFERS
Almost all transfer students enter UC as upper-division juniors. Campus enrollment targets are based on State funding as well as capacity in major programs at the upper-division level.
UC’s Transfer Pathways identify a common set of lower-division courses for each of 20 of the most popular majors among transfer applicants. The Transfer Pathways present a clear roadmap for prospective transfers to prepare for their majors and be well positioned to graduate in a timely fashion from any UC campus. In fall 2020, the third year of the Transfer Pathways, those indicating Pathway-based preparation represented 50 percent of all CCC admits and 51 percent of all CCC enrollees. Many of these students also participated in other preparatory programs such as Transfer Admissions Guaranteed (TAG) and Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC).
Transfer Pathways Majors
Anthropology Computer Science Molecular Biology
Biochemistry Economics Philosophy
Biology Electrical Engineering Physics
Business Administration English Political Science
Cell Biology History Psychology
Chemistry Mathematics Sociology
Communication Mechanical Engineering
In April 2018, UC signed an agreement with the California Community Colleges (CCCs) to guarantee a place within the UC system to students who complete one of the Transfer Pathways and achieve the requisite grade point average (GPA). The new Pathways+ program launched in August 2019.
The University enrolled over 226,000 undergraduates in fall 2020. The University enrolls freshman and transfer students from almost every county of California. UC’s Eligibility in the Local Context (ELC) policy is designed to increase the overall geographic diversity of freshman entrants.
Undergraduate Enrollment, Fall 2020
New Freshmen 46,716
New Transfers/Other 21,960
Continuing Students 157,773
As academic qualifications have improved over the last decade, UC has maintained access for populations historically underserved by higher education. In fall 2020, 34 percent of new undergraduates received Pell Grants, a marker for low-income status. About 41 percent of UC’s entering students are first-generation, meaning neither parent graduated from a four-year college. These students are more likely to be from an underrepresented group (URG, African American, Hispanic/Latinx and Native American/Alaska Native students), to have a first language other than English, to enter as a transfer student, to be female, and/or to have a lower income than students with at least one parent who graduated from a four-year college (1.2.1).
The share of all undergraduates who are nonresident domestic and international students has increased in recent years, though their proportion is still much lower than at comparable public research universities. In 2019–20, the share of new undergraduates paying nonresident tuition went down slightly while the share of all undergraduates paying nonresident tuition went up slightly (1.4.4). In May 2017, UC adopted a policy affirming that nonresident undergraduates “will continue to be enrolled in addition to, rather than in place of, funded California undergraduates at each campus.” The policy also capped nonresident enrollment at 18 percent for five UC campuses (Davis, Merced, Riverside, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz) and, for the remaining four campuses (Berkeley, Irvine, Los Angeles, and San Diego), at the proportion each campus enrolled in 2017–18. The policy went into effect for the 2018–19 academic year.
Having California students learn and live alongside students from backgrounds and cultures different from their own is part of a world-class educational experience. California students also benefit from the extra tuition paid by nonresident undergraduates, which is about $30,000 more per year than the amount paid by residents. That tuition helps to fund faculty hires, instructional technology, student advising, and other services that directly benefit California students.
 Other types of new students include those enrolling for a second baccalaureate or with limited status (not seeking a bachelor’s degree).
Regents Policy 2109: Policy on Nonresident Student Enrollment: regents.universityofcalifornia.edu/governance/policies/2109.html.
ADMISSIONS AND ENROLLMENT TRENDS
Freshman applicants have gone up from 68,000 to 172,000 over the past two decades, averaging four percent growth per year. In fall 2020, the number of applicants decreased two percent compared to the previous year, while the number of students admitted went up ten percent and the number of enrollees went up two percent (1.1.1). While the fall 2020 incoming cohort applied to UC before the COVID-19 pandemic, they made choices about whether and where to attend college during the start of the pandemic, and entered UC during a time of distance learning. Application numbers are about the same as the year before but admitted students were deciding to come to UC at a lower rate, leading campuses to admit a higher proportion of applicants in order to meet enrollment goals.
Fall transfer applicants nearly doubled over the last 20 years, with average annual growth of four percent. In fall 2020, transfer applicants and admits both increased by five percent compared to the previous year, while enrollees went up eight percent (1.1.2).
The Master Plan specifies that the University maintain a 60:40 ratio of upper-division to lower-division students, which corresponds to a 2:1 ratio of new California resident freshmen to new California resident transfers. UC has moved from 2.3:1 in 2016–17, to an estimated 1.9:1 in 2020–21 (Universitywide). The Universitywide ratio excluding Merced is also estimated to be 1.9:1 for 2020–21, achieving the systemwide goal for this metric for a fourth year. The University continues to work toward achieving this ratio for each campus (except Merced) (1.1.3). Overall undergraduate enrollment (new and continuing students) continued to grow in fall 2020. Total enrollment was over 226,000 in fall 2020, up less than half a percent from the year before. This includes an increase in California residents of over 1,500, following increases of over 7,000 in fall 2016, over 4,000 in fall 2017, over 3,000 in fall 2018, and over 2,500 in fall 2019 (1.1.4).ACADEMIC PREPARATION
Freshmen entering UC are increasingly well prepared, as shown by changes in the number of college preparatory courses and high school GPA over time (1.3.1). Transfer students are also increasingly well prepared, as measured by college GPA over time (1.3.2).
GEOGRAPHIC ORIGINS AND NONRESIDENTS
UC has a lower proportion of out-of-state undergraduates than other public AAU universities. In fall 2020, only 17.2 percent of UC’s enrollees were out-of-state or international, compared with 30.5 percent for other AAU public institutions (1.4.1).
About 36 percent of freshmen and 49 percent of transfer students entering UC campuses come from within 50 miles of campus. These numbers are relatively stable and have risen only slightly over the past few years (1.4.2, 1.4.3).
The percentage of all undergraduates paying nonresident tuition and the percentage of new undergraduate students paying nonresident tuition went up slightly in 2019–2020 (1.4.4).
The University of California Board of Regents at its May 2020 meeting unanimously approved the suspension of the standardized test requirement for all California freshman applicants until fall 2024, providing time for the University to create a new test that better aligns with A–G curricular standards. However, if a new test does not meet specified criteria in time for fall 2025 admission, UC will eliminate the standardized testing requirement for California students.
Enrollment of new freshman and transfer students has been fairly steady for the last few years, but will need to grow for UC to meet its goal of awarding an additional 200,000 degrees (for a total of 1.2 million) by 2030. State funding is crucial for reaching this goal. UC also continues to work to close equity gaps. In 2020, 61 percent of California public high school graduates were from underrepresented groups (URGs) while 38 percent of new freshman enrollees at UC were from these groups, for a 23-percentage point gap.
Although unduplicated freshman applicants went down by two percent in 2020 compared to 2019, they remained above the levels for all years prior to 2018. From 2011 to 2018, applicants increased 71 percent (or about eight percent per year), from about 106,000 to about 182,000, compared to a 42 percent increase in the seven-year period between 2004 and 2011 (or about five percent per year), from about 75,000 to 106,000. The 71 percent growth represents about 76,000 applicants, including about 35,000 California residents.
Most campuses admit less than half of freshman applicants. Many applicants apply to more than one UC campus; in fall 2020, UC applicants applied to an average of 3.9 campuses. Freshman applications increased at Berkeley, Irvine, Merced, and San Diego, and decreased for all other campuses in fall 2020. For data tables on UC freshman applicants, admits, and enrollees by campus over time, see: universityofcalifornia.edu/infocenter/admissions-residency-and-ethnicity.
Transfer applicants, admits, and enrollees are higher than ever.
1.1.2 Transfer applicants, admits, and enrollees, Universitywide and UC campuses, Fall 1994 to 2020
Transfer applications and admits increased by five percent, and enrollees increased by eight percent in fall 2020. Over 43,000 transfer students applied, over 30,000 were admitted, and almost 22,000 enrolled in fall 2020. Consistent with UC’s commitment to transfer students from California Community Colleges (CCCs), fall enrollment of new CCC California resident transfers has more than doubled since 1994, from 8,400 to 18,100. The average transfer applicant applies to 3.7 UC campuses, compared to 3.9 for the average freshman applicant.
For data tables on UC transfer applicants, admits, and enrollees by campus see:
UC has met the systemwide goal of a 2:1 ratio of California resident freshmen to transfer students and is on track to meet the goal at all campuses.
1.1.3 New California resident freshmen and transfer students, Universitywide, 2008–09 to 2020–21
The California Master Plan calls for UC to accommodate all qualified resident California Community College (CCC) transfer students. It specifies that the University maintain at least a 60:40 ratio of upper-division (junior and senior) to lower-division (freshman and sophomore) students to ensure adequate upper-division spaces for CCC transfers. To do so, UC aims to enroll one new California resident transfer student for every two new California resident freshmen, or 67 percent new resident freshmen to 33 percent new resident transfer students.2 UC has moved from 2.3:1 in 2016–17 to an estimated 1.9 in 2020–21 (Universitywide). Excluding Merced, the ratio for 2020–21 is also estimated to be 1.9:1, meeting the systemwide goal four years in a row.3 San Diego met it in 2019–20 and Riverside was estimated to meet it in 2020–21. Santa Cruz met the goal in 2018–19 and 2019–20, but in 2020–21 did not meet the goal primarily due to an unusually large freshman class.
UC’s fall undergraduate headcount grew slightly between fall 2019 and fall 2020, including over 1,500 additional California residents.
1.1.4 Undergraduate headcount enrollment, Universitywide and UC campuses, Fall 2008 to 2020
The University and the state share the goal of expanding access to a UC education. The University enrolled over 1,500 additional California residents in fall 2020 compared to fall 2019, following increases of 2,500, 3,000, 4,000 and 7,000 in the four prior years, for a total of over 18,500 over five years.
1.2 DEMOGRAPHIC OUTCOMES
UC’s entering first-generation students are more likely to be from an underrepresented group (URG), to enter as transfer students, and/or to be Pell Grant recipients.
1.2.1 Entering students by first generation status, race/ethnicity, first language spoken at home, entry level, Pell Grant status, and gender, Universitywide, Fall 2020
A little over half (50 percent) of entering first-generation students in fall 2020 are from URGs, compared to 16 percent of not-first-generation students. Almost two-fifths (39 percent) of first-generation students’ first language was not English, versus 30 percent for others. Over one-third (37 percent) of first-generation students entered as transfers, versus 27 percent for others. Three-fifths (60 percent) of first-generation students are lower-income Pell Grant recipients, versus 16 percent for others. And nearly three-fifths (58 percent) of first-generation students are female, compared to just over half (52 percent) of others.
1.3 PREPARATION OUTCOMES
Freshmen entering UC are increasingly well-prepared.
1.3.1 A–G (college preparatory)1 courses and weighted, capped high school grade point average (GPA)2 of entering freshmen, as share of class, Universitywide, Fall 2008 to Fall 2020
The academic indicators of UC’s entering freshmen have improved over time, as reflected by an increase in the share of students completing 25 or more college-preparatory courses and having a 3.8 or higher high school GPA. Despite slight downturns in 2020, from 2008 to 2020, the first indicator went up from 33 percent to 48 percent, while the second went up from 54 percent to 76 percent.
1.3 PREPARATION OUTCOMES
UC transfer students in fall 2020 were better prepared academically than their counterparts a decade ago, as measured by their grades.
1.3.2 College grade point average (GPA)1 of entering transfer students, as share of class, Fall 2008 to Fall 2020, Universitywide
The academic qualifications of transfer students entering UC have improved over time, as reflected by an increase in the share of students having a 3.6 or higher college GPA, from 37 percent in fall 2008 to 49 percent in fall 2020.
1.4 GEOGRAPHIC ORIGINS AND NONRESIDENTS
UC has a substantially lower proportion of out-of-state undergraduates than other AAU universities. In fall 2020, only 17.2 percent of UC’s enrollees were out-of-state or international, compared with 30.5 percent for other AAU Public institutions.
1.4.1 Residency of undergraduate students, Universitywide and comparison institutions, Fall 2020
UC’s priority is to enroll California residents. Campuses enroll nonresident students based on available physical and instructional capacity and the campus’ ability to attract qualified nonresident students.
Nonresidents provide geographic and cultural diversity to the student body. They also pay the full cost of their education. In 2019–2020, systemwide tuition and fees for a nonresident undergraduate were $42,324, compared to $12,570 for California resident students.
Nonresident applicants must meet higher criteria to be considered for admission. The minimum high school GPA for nonresident freshmen is 3.4, compared to 3.0 for California freshmen. The minimum college GPA for nonresident transfer students is 2.8, compared to 2.4 for California residents.
1.4 GEOGRAPHIC ORIGINS AND NONRESIDENTS
UC campuses attract freshmen from nearby regions and the major urban areas of California, with a systemwide local attendance rate of 36 percent.
1.4.2 Percentage of new CA resident freshman enrollees whose home is within a 50-mile radius of their campus, UC campuses, Fall 202
1.4 GEOGRAPHIC ORIGINS AND NONRESIDENTS
Local enrollment rates for transfers are higher than for freshmen, with 49 percent enrolling at a UC campus within 50 miles of their homes.
1.4.3 Percentage of new CA resident transfer enrollees whose home is within a 50-mile radius of their campus, UC campuses, Fall 2020
1.4 GEOGRAPHIC ORIGINS AND NONRESIDENTS
The proportion of undergraduate students paying nonresident tuition declined slightly in 2020–2021.
1.4.4 Percentage of undergraduate enrollees paying nonresident tuition by academic year1, Universitywide, 2008–2009 to 2020–2021
.Systemwide, the share of all undergraduates paying nonresident tuition rose from five percent to 17.6 percent between 2009–2010 and 2019–2200. From 2009–2010 to 2015–2016, the proportion of undergraduates paying nonresident tuition went up from five percent to 15.3 percent, this increase in this period coincides with a period of reductions in State funding for UC due to the Great Recession. Starting in 2016–2017 as enrollment of new California residents increased, the proportion of undergraduates paying nonresident tuition leveled off to 17.5 percent between 2017–2018 to 2019–2020 During the COVID-19 pandemic, the estimated percentage dropped to 16.8 in 2020-2021.
The proportion of nonresident students at individual campuses varies depending on a campus’ capacity, and its ability to attract nonresident students, as well as its nonresident cap under a policy approved in May 2017, which applies to total undergraduate numbers. Under the policy, effective in 2018–2019, nonresident enrollment is limited to 18 percent at five UC campuses. At the other four campuses where the proportion of nonresidents already exceeded 18 percent — UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, UCLA, and UC San Diego — nonresident enrollment is capped at the proportion that each campus enrolled in 2017–2018
Source: Accountability Report 2021 from University of California.