MERCED — Student demand for admission to the University of California’s newest campus in Merced has risen dramatically compared with 2006, UC Merced officials said today.
Based on preliminary data gathered May 31 and released by the UC system, UC Merced has received 836 Statements of Intent to Register (SIRs) from freshmen and transfer students for Fall 2007.
UC Merced has received 751 SIRs from freshmen, compared with 458 on the same date last year. That’s an increase of nearly 64 percent.
“It’s a very good year,” said Enarnación Ruiz, UC Merced’s director of admissions. “We’re showing strong, positive growth and we’re maintaining the academic quality and diversity of our campus.”
The freshman SIRs include about 50 students joining the campus through the Shared Experience program. Shared Experience is a new pilot program that offers selected highly qualified students the guaranteed opportunity to complete two years at UC Merced and then transition to another UC campus. The program allows students to begin their UC experience right away and gives them the opportunity to remain at UC Merced after their initial two years if they choose.
Transfer numbers are not complete; however, this year UC Merced has received 85 SIRs from transfers, about double last year’s numbers.
SIRs are nonbinding commitments to register for the fall semester. June 1 was UC Merced’s priority SIRs deadline, though the forms are still being accepted. Final enrollment numbers will not be known until the third-week census is completed in the fall.
“These results show the increasing attractiveness of the UC-quality education we offer in our unique and intimate setting,” said Jane Lawrence, UC Merced’s vice chancellor for student affairs. “While it’s still too early to predict actual class size this fall, we are very pleased by the enthusiastic student response.”
Lawrence attributed the growing interest in the state’s newest campus to UC Merced’s expanded academic offerings — the university began with nine majors and now has 17, as well as 16 minors.
Continuing campus development also affects UC Merced’s attractiveness to students. In the last year, the campus has seen:
- The advent of competitive club sports teams
- The opening of the new recreation and wellness center
- The count of student clubs and organizations growing to more than 80,
- The rise of brand-new on-campus housing,
- Expanding research opportunities for undergraduates
- New programs to enhance the college experience, such as the Yosemite Leadership Program and Service Learning
“UC Merced is coming into its own,” Lawrence said. “More students are hearing about the wonderful academic and social experiences their friends and peers are having here, and they want to be part of our campus community.”
This year’s SIRs come from all over the state, and numbers indicate Central Valley students’ interest in this campus is keeping pace with that of Bay area students. This year, 213 freshman SIRs come from the San Joaquin Valley. Last year, 146 SIRs came from Valley students - a 45 percent increase. This year, 28 percent of SIRs come from the Valley, 27 percent from the Bay area and 19 percent from the Los Angeles area.
“The increased number of Central Valley students intending to register at UC Merced is great news,” Ruiz said. “This means more Valley students will be able to take advantage of this research university.
“This is sure to create greater visibility for our campus in the region and provide other Valley students and their families with insights into the benefits associated with a UC education,” he said.
Specifically, UC Merced has seen tremendous growth from several Valley counties.
- Kern County SIRs increased 216 percent over last year
- Tulare County SIRs increased by 171 percent over last year
- San Joaquin County SIRs increased by 63 percent over last year
- Merced County SIRs increased by 61 percent over last year
Additionally, two Bay area counties’ increased SIRs stand out: Alameda County’s grew by 90 percent and San Mateo’s by 70 percent.
Los Angeles County SIRs also increased by 100 percent.
Fifty-four percent of the freshman SIRs this year come from students who say they will be the first in their families to attain four-year college degrees. Last year, 53 percent of freshman SIRs came from first-generation students.
This year, 47 percent of the freshman SIRs come from students from low-income families (families with an annual income of $40,000 or less), about 4 percent more than last year.
UC Merced is an extremely diverse campus, and this year’s SIRs indicate it will remain so. Thirty-three percent of this year’s freshman SIRs come from Chicano/Latino students, compared with 31 percent last year. This year’s 252 Chicano/Latino SIRs are a 74 percent increase over last year’s 145.
Thirty- three percent of this year’s freshman SIRs are from Asian students, as was the case last year; 20 percent are from Caucasian students, compared to 19 percent last year; and 7 percent are from African American students, a number that held steady from last year.
UC Merced remains almost evenly divided in terms of gender. This year, about 49 percent of the SIRs came from female students, and about 51 percent came from male students, compared with about 47 percent from female students and about 53 percent from male students last year.
Regardless of background, hometown or gender, though, UC Merced officials are confident students will have an exciting and enriching experience at UC Merced, especially as the campus continues to grow.
“We offer a high level of academic excellence, with personal attention and support that’s not likely on larger campuses,” Ruiz said.
He encourages students who are still undecided to come see the campus for themselves.
“Everyone who visits comes away with a good feeling about UC Merced,” he said. “They always tell me they didn’t realize it was this beautiful. I’m really excited that the word is getting out about us.”