Transfers Up at University of California Campuses

System notoriously hard to get into sees notable increase in those coming from state's community colleges -- and also gains in minority enrollments through that route.

July 16, 2018

The University of California released new admissions statistics last week for the class that will be entering in the fall. Spoiler alert: it's incredibly difficult to get into UC campuses, especially those at Berkeley and Los Angeles.

And the demographics show diversity that stuns those outside California. At Merced, white students make up only 11 percent of new students, and at Riverside they are only 13 percent. Black enrollments are relatively low throughout the system, which is barred by the state's Constitution from considering race in admissions. But Asian-American enrollments far exceed percentages at elite private colleges -- Asian-Americans make up 44 percent of freshmen about to enroll at Berkeley and 41 percent at UCLA.

The above data edge up or down just a bit from year to year. The shift this year is that -- reflecting a series of new initiatives -- the system admitted a record number of transfer students, the vast majority of them from the state's community colleges. While many elite private colleges admit only a dozen or so transfer students, the UC system admitted 28,750 transfer applicants for the fall. While freshman admits totaled nearly 137,000, the share of new students who are transfers far exceeds that at most colleges with highly competitive admissions.

Notably, the gains in transfer students are taking place even at the campuses that are the most competitive in admissions -- and that have struggled with some kinds of diversity since the state banned the consideration of race in admissions.

Consider Berkeley. Black enrollment there has been flat for several years, at 4 percent of new freshmen. That's the figure for this fall as well, with 380 black freshmen. But 221 black transfer students are arriving this fall as well. And they account for 6 percent of Berkeley's transfer admits, up from 5 percent in recent years.

Latino numbers have been going up at Berkeley in recent years, with their share of freshman admits going up from 20 percent last year to 22 percent this year, although critics have noted that the gains still don't match the increases in the Latino population of the state. But here, too, the share of transfer admits who are Latino is not only going up but is higher than those being admitted as freshmen. The 989 Latino transfer students starting at Berkeley this fall make up 26 percent of the transfer population, up from 24 percent a year ago.

For UC, the gains also help with another challenge: admitting more state residents. The share of transfer admits from the state is larger than for freshmen, so UC also is able to show progress on a goal important to Governor Jerry Brown.

Share Article

Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

Back to Top