In a historic shift, Latinos are the leading group of prospective freshmen accepted into the University of California for fall 2020, part of the system’s largest and most diverse first-year class ever admitted, according to preliminary data released Thursday.
Latinos slightly eclipsed Asian Americans for the first time, making up 36% of the 79,953 California students offered admission. Asians made up 35%, whites 21% and Black students 5%. The rest were American Indians, Pacific Islanders or those who declined to state their race or ethnicity. About 44% of admitted students were low-income while 45% were the first in their families to attend a four-year university.
Overall, the UC system’s nine undergraduate campuses offered admission to a record number of students: 119,054 freshmen, up from 108,178 last year. The campuses also admitted 28,074 transfer students from the California Community Colleges system.
“This has been an incredibly challenging time as many students have been making their college decision in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said UC President Janet Napolitano. “UC continues to see increased admissions of underrepresented students as we seek to educate a diverse student body of future leaders. The incoming class will be one of our most talented and diverse yet, and UC is proud to invite them to join us.”
UC Berkeley led all campuses in boosting admission offers to underrepresented minorities, accepting the largest number of Black and Latino students in three decades, more than a 40% increase over last year. The increase reflects an intensified push by one of the nation’s premier public research universities to open its doors more widely to students of diverse racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds. Berkeley also admitted more students who are low-income, lack immigration status or are the first in their families to attend college.
“These numbers are an important and gratifying indication that our efforts to advance and expand the diversity of our undergraduate student body are beginning to bear fruit,” UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ said in a statement. “But now, more than ever, we must not be complacent, and remain focused on building a campus community that truly represents the state we serve, and allows every student to experience a true sense of belonging.”
Roberto Salazar is heading to UC Irvine as one of the 28,662 California Latino students admitted to UC’s fall freshman class. The Los Angeles High graduate migrated to Los Angeles from El Salvador at age 10 and did not speak English. He had no idea what college was and had no role models to adjust his perception that manual labor was the best way to earn a living. He got failing middle school grades.
But dedicated teachers and an inspiring biography he read about families that fought cancer convinced him “there’s more to life than being a bad student,” he said. He buckled down in high school, earned a 3.98 GPA and was selected as the class valedictorian. At Irvine, he plans to major in psychology
“My teachers really inspired me and told me what opportunities would open for me if I went to college,” Salazar said. “I felt I would be letting them down if I didn’t do my best.”
Audrey Dow, senior vice president for the Campaign for College Opportunity, said demographics are one reason behind the surge in admission offers to Latinos: They made up 51.8% of California high school graduates in 2018-19 compared with 42% in 2009-10, according to state Department of Education data. Equally important, the number of Latino high school graduates who met UC and California State University admission requirements hit 94,297 in 2019, an increase of about 7,000 students over 2017.
“Today’s students understand the value of a college degree and want to have their best shot at a four-year university,” Dow said. “They’ve rightly earned their spot at UC.”
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