Colleges and universities nationwide were dealt a significant new challenge this summer when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the use of race as a factor in admissions decisions. We have been outspoken in our belief that this decision will ultimately be harmful to higher education and our country, thwarting efforts by public and private institutions to reduce systemic barriers to educational opportunity experienced by historically marginalized populations.
We strive to reach students across the state to showcase the opportunity and access available at UC Santa Cruz, and our efforts were reflected by our latest admissions data. I was proud to see the figures. Our cohort of admitted first-year and transfer students stood out for its remarkable academic achievements, boasting a mean weighted high school GPA of 4.01, and for its diversity. Approximately 34 percent of the cohort will be the first in their families to attend a university, and 37 percent are from low-income families.
We extended offers of admission to 1,723 Black high school and transfer students, 11,206 Chicanx/Latinx high school and transfer students, and 304 American Indian high school and transfer students—all from the Golden State. All told, we offered admission to 35 percent more students from underrepresented groups this year than last.
We will have a slightly larger first-year class of frosh and transfer students this fall as we endeavor to keep our total enrollment steady to compensate for improvements in three- and four-year graduation rates and retention losses during and following the COVID pandemic, and to contribute to new systemwide enrollment targets. There’s also a need to rebalance student enrollment in certain academic programs and divisions, which will result in fewer students accepting our admissions offers than in previous years. But the jump also reflects our institutional commitment to expand opportunity for students of all backgrounds, especially those from communities historically excluded from higher education. This cohort, and our admissions process, ultimately gives me hope that institutions dedicated to expanding student opportunity and access, as we are, can find ways to do so even in the face of the high court’s ruling.
Since 1988, UC has employed a rigorous comprehensive review process for undergraduate applicants, ensuring an equitable evaluation that considers multiple aspects of achievement and promise while also acknowledging the unique contexts in which students have succeeded academically. We have built on that foundation, implementing a holistic review approach. Our admissions evaluators consider the entirety of each application, taking into account a wide range of information, achievements, and personal circumstances. By considering achievement within the context of opportunity, and by equitably assessing every applicant’s qualifications, we aim to admit students with an eye toward their potential to contribute to our community.
This approach is laborious, but the rewards are plentiful. Varied experiences and perspectives enrich communities. Diverse student bodies strengthen institutions academically. Groups composed of people with wide-ranging experiences and backgrounds have been shown to be more creative and innovative. These are also the traits valued by the companies that hire college graduates.
Our goal is to recruit, enroll, and graduate a student body as diverse as the state of California. We are not there yet, but I believe we are helping to set an example for our institutional peers, showing them how we are working to create a community composed of students of all backgrounds and experiences.
I’m thrilled for the fall arrival of our next Banana Slug cohort and look forward to seeing how they will enrich our campus community.
Cynthia Larive, Chancellor