UC Davis Gears up for Largest Freshman Class
May 15, 2006
The University of California, Davis, is marshaling resources to welcome what could be its largest first-year class ever, with almost 900 more freshman applicants than expected accepting offers of admission for fall 2006.
As the campus readies for an incoming class with greater ethnic diversity and a record number of Regents Scholarship winners, it is taking steps to provide additional classes, housing and other student services.
"UC Davis is enthusiastic to welcome so many highly qualified students to the campus," said Fred Wood, interim vice provost for undergraduate studies. "We are committed to ensuring that they have the opportunity to thrive in their university experience."
The campus was planning to enroll between 4,753 and 5,093 freshmen; by the May 1 deadline, however, a total of 5,953 students indicated their intent to register at UC Davis in the fall.
Some attrition occurs over the summer, and it is expected to reduce the number of freshmen who actually enroll in the fall. Even so, Wood said, the campus must prepare for a significant increase in the size of the incoming freshman class.
"This is a challenge for the entire campus community," he said. "Faculty and staff members are hard at work. We're asking our new students and others for understanding, patience and flexibility."
Pamela Burnett, director of undergraduate admissions, said two factors might explain the unexpected increase in the number of students intending to register as freshmen.
Increased efforts to attract prospective students to UC Davis contributed to an 8.6 percent increase in freshman applications. And other efforts geared toward admitted students met with overwhelmingly positive results -- seen, for example, in high attendance for campus tours and Southern California receptions.
Last year, 23.5 percent of freshman applicants admitted to Davis completed a statement of intent to register; this year, 26.7 percent accepted offers of admission.
Burnett also said some other colleges and universities across the country have been surprised by a particularly unpredictable admissions season, spurred in part by the trend of individual students applying to more universities to improve their options.
For example, The Wall Street Journal reported recently that admissions officers have been increasingly challenged to predict the rate of admitted students who will accept their offers. In a 2005 survey of more than 200,000 college students, the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute found that more than one in four students said they had applied to six or more colleges, compared with 18 percent of students 10 years earlier.
Deans are working with their departments to add courses and expand the number of those offered in the evening. Current students who will be juniors and seniors in the fall are being encouraged to enroll in some courses from the broader selection of summer offerings and, for fall, to explore upper-division courses to satisfy their remaining graduation requirements.
UC Davis, for example, is giving freshmen and sophomores the first opportunity to enroll in certain critical introductory classes before registration for these courses is opened, in a second round, to juniors and seniors.
"This will help ensure that the new students will be able to take the courses that they need and at the appropriate time in their academic career," Wood wrote in a recent e-mail to those expected to return as upper-division students in the fall.
"We apologize in advance for any inconvenience this restriction may cause you," Wood said. "We want to assure you that we will continue our work during the spring and summer to add capacity for fall so that seats will be available for you."
The campus also will continue to encourage current students to take advantage of summer instruction. Earlier, UC Davis announced a $300 credit for students who complete eight or more units in each of two Summer Sessions. Registration started May 9 for the summer classes, which begin in late June and early August.
The office of student housing is taking steps to be able to offer university housing to all freshmen. Measures include adding beds to existing rooms, converting common spaces to bedrooms and negotiating arrangements with an apartment complex adjacent to campus.
"UC Davis has a long tradition of offering university housing to all freshmen," said Bob Smiggen, director of student housing. "And we're going to continue that."
Historically, about 90 percent of freshmen want to live in university housing, so the number of beds might need to be increased by about 750, from 4,436 beds to about 5,200.
An estimated 388 rooms in Segundo North and Tercero South residence halls will be converted from double to triple rooms to house 1,164 students. The triple rooms in these newer residence halls were designed with greater square footage and higher ceilings to accommodate three students. An additional 123 rooms in Pierce and Thille halls also will be converted to triple rooms for 369 students. Families opting for the triple rooms will save about $1,200 over the cost of a double room for the academic year.
Some common study spaces in the Segundo high-rises and Pierce, Thille and Regan halls will be used to create triple or quad rooms for about 110 students. These rooms are about twice the size of a typical residence hall room.
The campus currently is working with the nearby apartment complex to have one- and two-bedroom units available for about 120 freshmen. Student residents, who would sign leases with the apartment management, would be able to purchase UC Davis meal plans and participate in residential education and social programs offered by the campus.
Student Housing also is planning to have some student resident assistants share their rooms with a student until other space becomes available.
To accommodate the larger class, an extra session has been added to the schedule for Summer Advising, a three-day program to help new students transition to studies and life at UC Davis.
Janet Gong, associate vice chancellor for student affairs, said several work groups are identifying student services that might need to be augmented or modified to serve the larger number of students. The groups are focusing on three primary areas: academic support services, such as peer-based advising and tutoring; physical and mental health support; and student activities.
"We will be looking for innovative approaches to meet the increased demand we anticipate for some services," Gong said, adding that more services may go online for students' convenience.
Wood and Gong said the campus has a history of meeting enrollment challenges. In 2004, the campus successfully integrated an additional 500 students at the last minute. Late summer negotiations over the state budget had made it possible for the University of California to welcome students who had been diverted to community colleges.
Quality and diversity of the class
As UC Davis prepares for the new freshman class, officials are pleased by the academic talent and diversity of backgrounds the students will bring to campus.
Among the freshman applicants who accepted offers of admission are 143 recipients of the prestigious UC Regents Scholarship, a merit-based award valued at a minimum of $7,500 a year. This is the largest number of winners in the history of the campus.
The campus also reported some modest gains in the entering class better reflecting the mix of the state's population. More than 17.4 percent of the students accepting offers of admission are from historically underrepresented groups -- African American, American Indian and Chicano/Latino. Last year, they accounted for 14.6 percent.
Overall, campus enrollment has been about 30,000 for the last three years. The campus will be better able to project fall 2006 enrollment in a few weeks when the deadline passes for transfer applicants to accept admission offers and when numbers become available for continuing, graduate and professional students.
• Fred Wood, Undergraduate Studies, (530) 752-6068, firstname.lastname@example.org
• Bob Smiggen, Student Housing, (530) 752-2034, email@example.com
• Pamela Burnett, Undergraduate Admissions, (530) 752-3018, firstname.lastname@example.org
• Julia Ann Easley, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-8248, email@example.com
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