A record number of high school seniors, nearly 55,000, applied to UC Irvine last November – all smart, all involved in their school and community, all anxious to become Anteaters. But as demand grows and state support dwindles, only about one-third are destined for admission.

Data released Tuesday, April 17, show that the campus is the third-most selective in admission rates among University of California campuses, behind UC Berkeley and UCLA. Fewer incoming freshmen were admitted for fall 2012 than for fall 2011 – by design, as the campus aligns its student population with state funding targets. The grade point average is up to 4.07 from 4.0 last year. The campus also made gains in the number of low-income, first generation students it will serve, as well as the number of international students – who will pay higher fees to help underwrite state funding cuts.

“I believe the quality of our faculty and academic programs, along with the great support students find here, is driving the increased demand at UCI as a campus of first choice,” says Brent Yunek, assistant vice chancellor for enrollment services.

UCI admitted 19,806 freshmen total, with a goal of enrolling 4,500 California residents and 550 non-residents. This represents an 8 percent decrease in applicants admitted compared to last year, mainly due to a record number of applications and to a smaller enrollment target intended to maintain high-quality academic programs during a period of limited state funding.

However, the campus saw growth in the relative percentages of underrepresented students and those who are the first in their families to attend college. Chicano/Latino and African American students make up 25.7 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively, of the admitted class – compared to 23 percent and 2.8 percent in 2011. First-generation student admissions declined by just 0.7 percent, despite the 8 percent decrease in general admissions. And UCI admitted 6.6 percent more low-income freshman applicants for fall 2012 than for fall 2011.

“I see us as a campus that’s making great gains in serving low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented minority students, even in a year where we had to make fewer offers,” Yunek said.  “And the plus for those who come from families making under $80,000 a year is that the Blue & Gold Opportunity Plan covers their educational and student services fees.”

Populating a freshman class requires precise calculations based on the California state budget and careful analysis of student recruitment and yield projections, the financial impact of out-of-state and international student enrollment and more. So how do admissions staffers determine the size and makeup of each incoming class?

It begins with the campus’s long-range Strategic Academic Plan, which is a guideline to what the campus can achieve within the funding provided by the state, says Meredith Michaels, vice chancellor for planning & budget.

“UCI’s long-standing policy is to maintain enrollment at the level the state will fund,” she says. “Our general campus enrollment target for all undergraduate and graduate students in 2012 is 26,945. The state provides a portion of the total funding needed to serve the student population and we must find the remainder from alternative sources, which includes private donations, non-resident tuition and federal grants. The estimated state funding per student for the next academic year is more than 17 percent lower than the funding in the 2000-01 academic year. This forces us to limit our enrollment growth to levels below our long-range plan.”

While applications to UCI hit record highs this year, the California budget situation has not improved. Last year, for example, state funds accounted for just 12.2 percent of the campus budget. As a result of this – and last year’s unexpectedly high “yield rate” (admitted students who actually register) – the campus decided to pare California resident admissions from 19,046 last year to 15,955, a 16.2 percent decrease.

Once the maximum number of California resident student slots is determined, the admissions office calculates how many out-of-state and foreign students the campus can accommodate to partially offset state budget cuts. Nonresident students pay nearly $37,000 in annual fees, compared to almost $14,000 for residents.

“The increased revenue generated by nonresidents helps us fund the faculty we need,” Michaels says. “We’re able to maintain quality – despite the budget cuts – in large part because of these international and out-of-state students.” (In addition, she said, streamlining and realignment of administrative staff and overall belt-tightening efforts have helped close the gap.)

Nearly twice as many nonresident students applied to UCI this year than last, and that increased competition allowed the campus to be more selective in its admissions. It accepted 1,363 out-of-state students (54.2 percent of the applicants) and 2,488 international students (55.2 percent of the applicants), compared to 65.3 percent and 57.7 percent, respectively, for 2011-12.

UCI is now reviewing transfer students’ applications; those decisions will be completed in May.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County’s second-largest employer, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $4 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.

News Radio: UCI maintains on campus an ISDN line for conducting interviews with its faculty and experts. Use of this line is available for a fee to radio news programs/stations that wish to interview UCI faculty and experts. Use of the ISDN line is subject to availability and approval by the university.