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Archive for the ‘University of California Admissions Data’ Category

Strategy for your University of California Application and Data Update

In Uncategorized, University of California, University of California Admissions Data, University of California Admissions Data 2017, University of California Application, University of California Funding on July 11, 2017 at 11:33 am

Who should read this post–anybody applying to the University of California.  Contents–see below for a look at the latest data, as of July 11, 2017, with acceptance rates, a one-campus snapshot of GPA and test averages (for subscribers only) and your takeaway on relative chances of admissions based on your numbers and who you are.  The big story remains the same:  The state budget directly affects your chances of enrollment.

So the big news is that the U.C. has finally released its data, or at least some more of it, after sitting on information that is normally out in April.  The story is mixed, with some hints of sunshine for in-state students, but this is more a break in the clouds than a change in climate–expect the difficulty level of admissions to increase at all campuses, with Merced remaining the go-to backup for the U.C.  I know, I know . . . Merced.  But there are some reasons to like Merced.  More on that later.

Reasons that the difficulty will go up for California residents start with the deal to admit an additional 10,000 students over a three-year period that was agreed between the U.C. and the state government (to be more exact, Governor Brown himself was behind this).

This deal is now over, and I see no real discussion of anything new on that front, so this year several thousand spots will not be set aside for California students.  Please keep that in mind as you read on.  There is still political pressure to admit California students, but nothing concrete that will help you Cali residents, though some campuses have been clear about their intention to help a particular category of Cali applicants–more on that shortly.

Just to keep some perspective on the effect of this program ending, the UC system as a whole, for fall of 2016, admitted 105,671 freshman and 23,279 junior college transfers–so the approximately 8,488 extra California students admitted last year was about 6.5% of the total.  And many of those would be offered a backup campus, like Merced.  Still. That was  pretty good boost for California applicants who were freshman last year, and the march of data continued to go up, overall, in terms of average GPA and test scores increasing for admitted students.

Why the admissions are more difficult is a two-part problem–Part 1, the people of California, as represented by their elected officials, have not been investing in a whole lot of new campuses.  There is a very large building program at Merced, but not much else going on that actually expands the number of seats available at the UC (or Cal State, for that matter); and overall, the universities in California are still underfunded–here’s a quote from an analysis in 2016:

“State support for CSU and UC has not kept up with the significantly increased demand for higher education in California. Since 1980-81, enrollment has increased by more than 50 percent at CSU and by more than 90 percent at UC. Yet during this same period, General Fund support for each institution has declined by nearly 13 percent, after adjusting for inflation.”

For the full report, click here:  CBPC Report

Obviously a 13% budget cut in the face of such increased enrollment demand is in reality a much larger budget cut, as summarized in a different article by our friends at UCLA:

“California invests less per student in its public universities today than it did 30 years ago, according to another PPIC report. In 2013, California spent about half as much as it did in the late 1980s per student in the UC system.”

The upshot will be increasing tuitions in the near future and decreased chances of enrollment for the immediate future.  For the full article, click here: Less State Investment.

Application demand overall was also up, as I explained with detailed numbers in a previous post–click here for that: UC Application Totals.

 

Application Strategy–Buy the U.C. brand, not a specific campus; be willing to go to a community college.

But the story is not all doom and gloom, particularly if you are willing to go to a less in-demand U.C. campus and, if you are really set on the U.C.,  are willing to purse what I would call the two-step dance into a U.C.  campus–by going to a good junior college, and then transferring.

Your basic takeaway is this:  There were clear advantages to being in certain categories for admissions last year.  Those categories were led by California Junior College applicants.

But before we get into that, let’s take a look at the data we do have, the only complete data–

The full content of this post is available only on my private blog, which is available fo clients and subscribers.  For information on how to subscribe, or to become an editing or advising client,  please contact me.

College Application Data for 2017-2018: The University of California and Stanford; Bonus: an Explanation of the Waitlist, the rise of Waitlist Admissions, and the Role of Politics in College Admissions

In Admissions Waitlist, Stanford Admissions, Stanford Admissions Data 2017, Uncategorized, University of California Admissions Data, University of California Admissions Data 2017, University of California Funding, Waitlist Data on June 9, 2017 at 1:57 pm

Who should read this post–anybody who has been looking for recent application data for the U.C. system or Stanford.  Anybody who wants to know more about waitlists and waitlist admits.  Anybody who is still innocent enough to think data is just data.  

Bonus links to fill in the data holes, and an explanation of why those holes in data today exist.

As you have probably heard, there are three kinds of lies:  lies, damned lies and statistics.  The fact that nobody really can say for sure who came up with that aphorism–Benjamin Disraeli?  Mark Twain?–is a lot like the information available for the most recent application season.  Outside of the Ivy League, most application information for the class of 2021 is AWOL or incomplete.  The reasons for this are budgetary and political, but the politics vary.  Let’s look at the University of California first–

University of California Admissions Data for the fall of 2017.  Or maybe 2016 . . .

The takeaway is that applications are up at all campuses, and way up at a few, particularly at UCLA, which had 123,992 applicants; for some perspective on that, in 2015, UCLA had 112,744.  Either way, you have enough to populate a medium-sized city, and that population of applicants at the gate is growing rapidly.  For freshman applications, it was 102,181 this year, and 92,681 in 2015.  The trend is obvious.

What is also obvious is the trend in GPA and test data–the average GPA and test scores for students entering UCLA in the fall of 2016 was 3.91 unweighted and 4.33 weighted, with an SAT II average of 2080 and ACT composite score of 32.  What I cannot tell you right now is what the average GPA and test composites are for those who will enroll this fall.  Why, you ask?

Several reasons.  First is the increasing use of waitlists.

Waitlist Admits

Waitlists are just that: lists of students who are qualified but who are bumped aside by students who appear to be slightly better qualified.  This also means that waitlists are places of hope, in fact are becoming increasingly so at the U.C. But the rise of waitlists has also meant the delay of data.  Here’s why:

The universities have to finish admitting students before they finish their data, and these days, with more students applying to more schools, it is becoming harder to predict yield for regular admissions.  Yield  is the total percentage of students who are admitted and then accept the offer.  After offers are accepted in early May, the schools, then go back to the drawing board, in this case, the waitlist, and make more offers.  This is still going on at some U.C. campuses as I write this in June of 2016–and that is no longer an anomaly, though it is a newly prominent feature of the U.C. application scene.  So as an example, this is what the University of California, Berkeley did with waitlist admits for students entering Berkeley in the fall of 2015, which is the last date at which UC Berkeley supplied waitlist information:

U. C. Berkeley Waitlist 2015-2016

Number of qualified applicants placed on waiting list: 3,760

Number accepting a place on the waiting list: 2,445

Number of wait-listed students admitted: 1,340.  

For some perspective on this, 13,321 students were offered admissions prior to this waitlist admissions, so about 10% of enrollees were off of the wait list.  Not only that, those who were on U.C. Berkeley’s waitlist for fall of 2015  had a 55% admit rate –very good odds, with the overall enrollment rate at only 17% for that year.

But of course, waitlist enrollments delay basic data totals until June and even July, which is of course also the last chance for admissions people to take a vacation, and with yield–the number of those admitted who actually show up to school–not confirmed until late August and not finalized until September or October, you have a number of problems getting accurate, recent data.  And you also have some disincentives.

Before we get to the disincentives, if you want an updated snapshot of the most recent GPA and test data for U.C. Berkeley, here it is for fall, 2016 enrollees:  3.9 unweighted GPA for in-state (vs. 3.94 for out-of-state!) and SAT II of ca. 1940-2300 (25th-75th percentile of admits) and an ACT score range of 30-34 (also for the 25th-75th percentile). Tough last year, likely tougher this year–expect ca. 3.91-3.92 GPA–when we finally get the data.

Increased GPA is one reason we are still waiting for the data, imho.  Because:

Politics and Data Disincentives

There are two primary drivers that bury data here:  first, the U.C. and both branches of government in California have been engaged in battle over enrollment numbers, with Governor Brown most vocal on the political side, but also numerous members of the legislature criticizing the U.C. for not admitting “sufficient” California residents.  As you likely noted above, at least for last year, out-of-state GPA was slightly higher at Berkeley that for in-state GPA, which is not what you might expect, but still, when you tell your average California parent of a high school student that the average unweighted GPA for the two biggest U.C. campuses is at or over 3.9 . . . well let’s just say some constituents are not happy.

They don’t care if having 15% of students paying out-of-state tuition allows UC Berkeley to stay more or less funded (Ah, a couple of hundred million bucks short at Berkeley a year ago, but that is another topic . . .).  California parents just want their kid in the University.

Add to that the fact that the deal Governor Brown spearheaded with the U.C. system, which had 10,000 additional California students added to the total enrolled over the last 3 years is over as of this year’s class, which means new negotiations over enrollment, tuition and funding are heating up again and, well, why would  the U.C. want to release a bunch of data now?  Particularly as the new unweighted instate GPA is very unlikely to go down and in fact is more likely to be, oh, 3.92  at UCLA and Cal?

And how far behind the curve the data is becomes pretty clear when you find that The Common Data Set for U.C. campuses like Berkeley for last year is still  a mostly empty Excel Spreadsheet; go back a year and you have a pdf with complete data.  Yes, it is all going very slowly on the data front . . . with one additional political factor:

That audit and what has been hyped as a scandal involving “overpaying” some U.C. leadership, and some P.R. funds that U.C. President Napolitano had earmarked to make herself, excuse me her office,  look good . . . so don’t expect to see  data suggesting that it is once again harder for a California kid to get into the University of California released before, Oh, Thanksgiving, when  a plurality of Americans are eating too much and distracted by football or holiday shopping. (P.S.–I don’t blame Napolitano for arming herself with some P.R. dollars for her battle with the state gov.)

Budget Factors

Adding to my last comment, I want to be fair to the U.C. –some of the same pols who attack the U.C. and its enrollment practices also fail to give it adequate funding–the budgets for the University of California and the Cal State University systems fell by about 30% between 2008 and 2013, and these cuts have only been partially restored.  Add the fact that student tuition has, on average, tripled in two decades, an increase which is almost entirely due to cuts in state funding.  So . . . any improvement in expenses would have to be met by an increase in funding.  Good luck with that, in this political climate.

It’s easier for a pol to blame and yell at the people running the universities than it is to pass the blame where it mostly belongs, which is to the voters.  Yep, I said it.  You get what you pay for, folks. And since people don’t seem to value the public commons much these days, you pay more for what are ostensibly public goods, if you want them.

In this context, why would the U.C. want to release data that would be used as a club against them by, oh, Assembly members who want to look like they are standing up for middle class families without actually paying for the needed services?    I expect that some of the folks building the common data sets that are currently AWOL have themselves been made redundant at places like Berkeley, which cut hundreds of classified/admin jobs last year, to deal with that deficit noted.  So in end, it all adds up.

And Now:  The Only Complete Data Available for University of California Applications

Having said everything I said, you can see some solid data for all of the University of California campuses for the class of 2021, which is how many people applied.  While this may not seem too useful, you can apply the numbers to previous years and extrapolate, as I did, that along with the larger pool of applicants, the average admitted GPA and test scores will also have increased–I predict something like a 3.92 GPA average at Berkeley and UCLA, for example, as stated earlier.  To see the totals, click here:

Three year totals for University of California applications, 2015-2017.

Stanford

Oh, about that little school in Palo Alto.   Stanford–they are not releasing information beyond basic application and admissions numbers.

Why?  Good question.  They were the first university to drop below the 5% acceptance rate, with GPA’s that are kind of insane once you subtract the many athletes they enroll, and they are either teasing us by letting us wait to see the new highs for grades and test scores, or they are, finally, somewhat embarrassed.

Since being embarrassed by their own greatness has never seemed to be an issue at Stanford, I assume they are playing some other kind of admissions game  to stay on the top of the elite heap.  As is U Chicago, which is not at the top of the elite heap, but sure is trying.   I will talk about them later.  In the meantime, here is the sum total of information Stanford has made available so far for the class of 2021:

Stanford University has offered admission to 2,050 students, including 721 applicants who were accepted last December through the early action program, the Office of Undergraduate Admission announced today.

Richard H. Shaw, dean of admission and financial aid, said the Class of 2021 was carefully selected from 44,073 candidates, the largest application pool in Stanford’s history. The admitted students come from all 50 states and 82 countries.

Doing the math on that, you have a 4.65% rate of admissions to Stanford–down from 4.69% last year.  Hey, at least it’s going down more slowly than it has in the last few years.

That’s my roundup of data on the biggest college brands in California, at least for now.  When I get updates, I will add them.  Come back soon for this year’s discussion of the U.C. essays.  In the meantime, enjoy your summer . . .  

Big Changes for the University of California Application: What, Why and What to Do (Part 1)

In Berkeley Application, Changes in College Admissions, College Application Essay, Personal Insight Questions, U.C. Berkeley Application, U.C.L.A. Application, UC Santa Cruz Application, University of California Admissions Data, University of California Application, University of California Application for 2016-2017 on September 7, 2016 at 2:49 pm

Who should read this post: anybody who is now or will be in the near future applying to any University of California campus; any parent of anybody applying to the U.C. anytime soon; anybody interested in what is going on in higher education.

 Our major topics: The U.C. Application Essays for 2016-2017; Some Current Data on U.C. Applications, From Admit Rates to G.P.A.’s; A Brief History of U.C. Admissions

 Our friends at the University of California have finally made their break from the Common Application.

But wait, you say—they never were in the Common App system. And you’d be right.

But the old, two-essay format for the U.C. pretty much guaranteed that a majority of applicants reused their Common App essay; with one thousand words total, you’d upload your very polished Common App essay, then write (or reuse from somewhere else) a shorter essay of about 350 words, after which you could click on as many U.C. campuses as you liked and call it a day. For the last few years, the U.C. has been like a satellite orbiting the Death Star known as The Common Application.

So much for that.

What exactly they want now is four essays, each of 350 words (maximum) and you are to choose from eight prompts to do so. If you are a junior college/transfer applicant, you are required to write about your major, then to choose three of seven remaining prompts. I link the new U.C. prompts for everybody here.

This is the biggest change in years at the U.C. and the biggest change I have seen yet this year in any of the major applications—so why are they doing this, now? And why should you care? Isn’t it enough that you have to write the bloody things?

Well, yes it is, but knowing why can help you understand what they want. And the why has three reasons.

Reason number one: The U.C. is having trouble figuring out who the best applicants are. More on that below.

Reason number two: The U.C. has too many people applying. To a large extent this is due to the fact that it’s easy to apply to all the U.C.’s once you’ve done the app for one: you write the essays, fill in the rest of the application, and then just start clicking to send it to as many U.C.’s as you want. Sure, you pay for each campus you target, but the fee is relatively small against the upside benefit of a seat at a U.C. campus. But you already knew that.

Reason number three: Essay recycling. Clearly this is tied in to the large number or apps, partly because the U.C. was a default backup to a range of super-selective Common App colleges (the Ivies, etc); most U.C. applicants were (and still are) applying to a selection of Common App schools as well—and being able to reuse the Common App essay made it all the more easy to add a set of U.C.’s to your average HYPSM application.

I know I already mentioned that, but it’s an important point because, well, they don’t want to feel like your fallback date for the big dance if your true love turns you down, and you can see how the new application is a direct response to essay recycling when you look at the length and at the number of essays now required for the U.C.: very few universities have a 350-word limit for their essays, and very few require this many essays written specifically for them. Of course, the number and range of questions also require you to do a lot more writing about yourself, and they hope that this will help them do a better job figuring out who to admit.

Think about it: if you are at a typical suburban high school, you probably need two hands and both feet to count the number of people at your school who have a 3.8 or above GPA and a 2100 SAT (or 32 ACT). But would you want to share a dorm with all of them? Are some of them not indistinguishable from robots?  U.C. truly believes in building a “learning community” and, like all schools, want people who themselves really want to attend, and who have more experiences in their lives than were defined by ten years at Kumon and four years of college counseling.  Therefore, the essays, which make it harder to fake it as you show who you are.  Though not impossible.

The takeaway is that it’s become much more difficult to reuse another essay directly on the U.C. application—or to use their essays directly on somebody else’s. Stanford, for example: they want 250-word supplemental essays, and while some clever editing might allow some crossover, a 350 word essay cut down to 250 words is a whole new essay.

On the other hand, a school like Harvard has some overlap through their “optional” extra essay (which is not really optional for most students) because it is so open-ended. And there is a degree of overlap between select UC prompts and prompts for a number of U.C. analogs as well as for some excellent, lesser-known choices across the country. So I will address the opportunities for multi-use essays directly in my next post.

For now let’s leave the essay prompts behind and turn to the details on how this came to pass, and on some current data for the U.C. admissions (3.91 average GPA at the two most popular U.C. campuses, for example) read on.

How We Got Here (And Where We Are)

To get a broader picture of where we are,  let’s start with a quick look at the ancient past: By the middle of the 20th Century, the U.C.’s stated mission was to provide higher education to all California students who qualified. For some perspective on what that meant, prior to 1960, the top 15% of all California students were admitted to the U.C. system, and until 1964 the system admitted all students who met its requirements.  And this without needing an SAT test.   Then, in 1968, a paradigm shift began as Ronald Reagan, governor of California, defined higher education as a privilege that should be defined by the practical and limited to the “deserving” (have a look here for a quick summary of Ronald Reagan’s role in changing the postwar educational paradigm: The Day the Purpose of College Changed).

Flash forward to the early 1980’s and Berkeley was denying admissions to roughly 50% of applicants; by 1990, that number had grown to around 2/3.

 

Some Current Admissions Data for the University of California

That seemed like tough news in 1990, but it seems fantastic compared to last year’s Berkeley admissions: for the incoming class of 2020: 14.8% of all freshman applicants were admitted to U.C. Berkeley, this coming out of 82,558 freshman applicants. And, oh yes, that average Berkeley SAT of 2093 and ACT of 31 for this year’s incoming freshmen, in addition to that 3.91 average GPA (Which was 3.94 for out-of-state and international students—though there are seats set aside for them which might still result in you getting bumped by an out-of-state student, Oh 3.9 GPA Californian).

Of course, you already knew that U.C. Berkeley and U.C.L.A. were both a bear to get into (No, I could not pass up the chance for a bad pun).

But now, even the so-called second tier campuses appear increasingly difficult for admissions, partly because the ease of spamming applications to all campuses, noted above, but also for the very good reason that the education is superb, and the chances of getting into other big-name university brands is even more brutal—just under 5% last year for Stanford, for example, and 6% admit rate for the tougher Ivies—and, well, Mr. Reagan, who attached the idea that education was special and argued that education should take cuts like everybody else when the budget needed to be balanced, and since the early 1970’s, it’s been about balancing budgets more than addign seats—I add only that this is a short summary but fully factual. You can add whatever politics you like to the facts.

But it could be worse–and there is plenty of room for the top 10% of students in California, at the least, if you are flexible in your U.C. target list. So before you panic, consider a wider field, starting with my favorite dark horse, Santa Cruz, which had an average admit GPA of 3.85 and an overall admit rate of 56.9% last year (with a California admit rate close to 80%). This from a university that the Times International survey has ranked in the top two in the world for research influence over the last couple of years (measured by how often U.C. Santa Cruz researchers were cited by others). Yep, U.C. Santa Cruz, at the top of world rankings for research citations.

As for prestige, in ten years, having a degree from U.C. Merced will be gold to a U.C. Berkeley or U.C.L.A. platinum.

It’s true that the pressure is not going to go away, but the new four-essay admissions strategy is likely to have a dampening effect on the total number of applications, and the additional 5,000 or so California students that the U.C. has agreed to add over the next two years will also have an effect on the chances that a California student will be admitted, as well as on the average GPA and test scores. And let’s look past my Dark Horse to a couple of other options.

In fact, let’s look in the San Jouquin Valley, where Merced’s middle-range GPA’s for students arriving this fall ranged from 3.37 (25th percentile admitted) to 3.88 (75th percentile). Which means that Merced looks like Berkeley did when Reagan was governor, in terms of getting in (Historical fact:  1967 was the first year that the SAT was required for U.C. admissions)—though I hasten to add that Merced will also be a large construction site for the next 4-5 years as they build it out into a truly world-class campus.

If construction dust (and valley fever) sound like bad news, have a look further south at U.C. Riverside, which for students enrolling this fall, had a mid-range GPA of 3.52-4.0, a mid-range ACT composite of 27-29 and a mid-range SAT composite of 1490-1915.

And Finally, Back To Those Pesky Application Essays

 So what should you do as you begin your U.C. application? Let’s start with Reason 1 for the change in the application: at the most selective U.C.’s, they are having a tough time figuring out who is a robot as they sort through reams of applications containing the life accomplishments of kids who have had fully programmed lives, going to Kumon since age four and starting college activities in 8th grade.  So view the essay as a chance to show them why you are unique and would be a real addition to whatever campus(es) you are applying to. But before you do that, compare the U.C. prompts to those used by the other schools you are applying to. Or better yet, wait until next week, when I do some of that for you, as well as analyzing prompts.

See you soon.

 

 

 

 

The Usual Suspects: Admissions Resultsfor the Ivy League and West Coast Favorites

In College Application Data, Ivy League Admissions Data, Uncategorized, University of California Admissions Data on May 24, 2016 at 8:48 am

Who should read this article:  Anybody interested in applying to an Ivy League or U.C. school, oh yes, and Stanford.   I also include my opening discussion for the class of 2021 on brand, status and the Tesla test.

How many Teslas have you seen with college stickers on the back window?

Me neither, and I drive the highways  in the most Tesla-dense region in the country as I visit area clients.  I’ll get back to that after we get to some data, below.

So how bad was the application season?  Depends on where you applied.  Applications to the Ivies, Stanford, and some of their analogues and safety schools, which will be the topic of this post,  were very, very difficult.  Your leading example is Stanford, which dropped below a 5% admissions rate for the first time this year–and was the first university to do this. Applying to Stanford increasingly resembles playing the lottery for most applicants. Applications to hundreds of non-name brands and international options, not so much. Food for thought, and a topic I will discuss again soon.

Onward, to some of this year’s data:

University . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Number of Applicants / %Accepted*

Stanford University . . . . . . . .43,997/4.69

Harvard University . . . . . . . . .39,041/5.2%

Columbia University . . . . . . . .36,292/6.04%

Yale University . . . . . . . . . . . .31,455/6.27%

Princeton University . . . . . . . 29,303/6.46%

Duke University . . . . . . . . . . .28,600/8.7%

Brown University . . . . . . . . . . .32,380/9.0%

University of Pennsylvania  . . 39,918/9.4%

Dartmouth College . . . . . . . . . .20,675/10.525

Northwestern University . . . . .35,099/10.7%

Cornell University . . . . . . . . . .44,966/13.96%

U.C. Berkeley . . . . . . . . . . . . . .82,558 (frosh)/14.8%

U.C.L.A. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .97,064(frosh),119,326(ttl) No data on % yet.

 

Not a very friendly collection of numbers, is it?  The problem, as usual, is that classic  supply and demand equation in market theory.

 

Sure, there is a long-term structural problem in our economy, and yes, the elite universities offer superb educational opportunities, not to mention the prestige of an Ivy or Stanford sticker on the back windshield, and yes, your college friends can be part of a great network . . . . but the next Mark Zuckerberg is not going to come from a new social media platform at Harvard.   Sure, if you are admitted, go to Harvard (as long as the financials work).  But don’t go just to have the brand, especially if you know of a lesser place with a better deal for you, educationally and financially (is Harvard really the best place to go for software design/engineering?)

One of the most important things I do with college advising clients is help them  develop a wider list of options.  My mantra on target schools is this:  You should always have three tiers of schools in your application list, with the bottom tier being schools for whom your data puts you above the 75th percentile of admissions, the middle tier with schools for which your data makes you an “average” admit, and your reach schools making up the third tier–where your data is at 25% or below, though I add that if your data is below or near the bottom of a college’s admit data, it’s not likely to be worth the time to write the app essays, much less pay the app fee.  The chances of admission always have to be weighed against the strength of your dream, of course, and maybe that fusion reactor you are constructing in your garage will do the trick . . .

I have written about strategy and creating a good college list before, and will write about it again in relation to this year’s application season in the coming months, so look for that.

Much of the overcrowding in the world of college apps  is a result of what an economist would refer to as market distortion–in this case rooted in the growing fear many people have about their economic future and the chances for their children to have a life as prosperous as their own.  This sense of decline in economic prospects is well-documented, as is the reality that fuels these fears, and along with  a focus on a narrow range of well-known brands, you can see the  problem with the information in this particular “market.”

The brand advantage does have a real effect on income when you are first hired in a range of industries, but that effect fades quickly–mid-range income is an indicator of job performance, and job performance comes from an alloy of factors, including how good your education actually was, your motivation, and decision-making on the job.  Which brings me back to that Tesla.

I have not seen a college sticker on the back window of a Tesla.  Well, okay, I have seen a couple, but those were on the back windows of Tesla 3’s   Yep, we already have truckloads of those loose in my part of the world.  The thing about a Tesla, and a college sticker, is two-fold: first both are a statement of status.  Second, both affiliate you with a group of people.

But a Tesla is a status symbol that speaks for itself, environmentally friendly, elegant in design, superb in execution and performance . . . and the one person I currently know who is driving a Tesla Model S went to Humboldt State University (not the Humboldt U in Germany–the Cal State in Northern California, an area more known for certain herbal products than tech).  This person started as an art major, moved to graphic arts and from there focused more and more on Computers . . . and now runs his own medium-sized digital arts company now–a success story showing the power of education and curiosity.

The car he owns because, a, he likes it, and b, he thinks that environmentalism can only succeed if it is not just moral but enjoyable.  His mid-career income is excellent, he loves what he is doing, and he came out of a college that does not get much notice even as a regional school–ranked only 57th as a regional university (West) by U.S. News and World Report.  Something to keep in mind as you churn through rankings and discard schools that are not getting brand recognition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s News for U.C. Berkeley and The University of California System

In Ivy League Admission Statistics, Researching Colleges, Santa Cruz, Stanford Admissions, U.C. Berkeley Application, UC Santa Cruz Application, University of California, University of California Admissions Data, What They Aren't Telling Us on May 4, 2016 at 2:39 pm

What’s in this column:  Some news on this year’s Berkeley admissions results; a short history of U.C. admissions (why is it getting so crazy–the answer is partly here); some information on budgets and politics at the U.C.  If you do not wish to read more than 140 or so characters at a time, scan for bold print and font color changes to see important data and subtopics.

If no news is good news . . . let’s just say there’s news for the U.C. system and in particular for Berkeley.

My goal here is to put this news–some of which you have likely heard, particularly if you live in California–into perspective.  And I’d like to start by making a simple statement:  the University of California was and still is the greatest university system in the world (sorry, University of London and your 18 campuses–more on them in my coming entry on international options).  And I can say that U.C. will (still) be great you are applying next year, though the bathrooms may not be as clean nor the landscaping as tidy as in earlier days, nor the computer lab repaired and updated quite as often, particularly at Berkeley where–here it is, your first data point for the year–500 employees are being laid off right now.

But before we get to budgetary problems and that massive construction project called U.C. Merced, let’s take a quick look at admissions results for the U.C. Berkeley, which sets the bar for the system as a whole.    I add one caveat:  waitlist admits and transfers are still in process, so the averages I give you here are going to move around  a bit.

Here is the scoop on the numbers for U.C. Berkeley for the 2015-2016 admissions period (a.k.a. the Class of 2020. a.k.a. students applying for the fall of 2016):

U.C. Berkeley Class of 2020 admissions

Average GPA:  3.91  (4.41 Weighted)

SAT:  (25th-75th%) 2075-2237–note that this is the SAT II, including language and math

All together Now:  Holy Bleep!  And for U.C. Berkeley:  Welcome to the newest member of the Ivy League.  No, seriously, in terms of admissions data, they have arrived.  Oh sure, Berkeley is not like Yale, Princeton or Stanford (which dropped below a 5% admissions rate this year).  But they are pretty close to Cornell, which has an admissions rate of 13.96% for the class of 2020.  Again, these numbers will move a bit as waitlist admits occur, but not much, and it tells you what you are facing when you apply next year–to Berkeley or Cornell, which had a 1400-range SAT II average last year.  You have my full sympathy.

Seriously, you do.  I grew up in California, my father worked for the Cal State system, and I have been directly involved with higher education in California in one way or another since the 1980’s.  And frankly, I don’t need a bigger college advising business opportunity than I already have, driven by a supply/demand problem that has been developing since about 1980.  The problem you face is part of a bigger problem involving what used to be called the Commons, particularly troubling when higher education is, in my opinion, the leading industry of the United States, not tech or, um, manufacturing.

Seriously. Silicon Valley exists because of the proximity of a half-dozen universities and cheap, clean water  as much as it does to genius entrepreneurs like Msrs. Hewlett and Packard, Grove and Noyce or to Wunderkind like Wozniak and Jobs (Yes, water-check out early chip production and the archaeology of the Valley here:  Not Even Silicon Valley Escapes History) .  The immediate cause for everything from HP on is as much in the universities as it is in the up-by-the-bootstraps mythology.  Hewlett and Packard were both Stanford alums and Woz was a Golden Bear, as are many inhabitants of the Silicon flatlands now. Yeh, Jobs was a dropout, from Reed College, but Reed also shaped him before he left. It’s still a great college, if you can handle the tuition.

So to see the applications difficulty reach this level makes me somewhat cray-cray.  Particularly when I work with California-resident students who visit the campus, see the Cal students, take a walk up Strawberry Canyon to look out over Memorial Stadium, with Mount Tamalpais and the Golden Gate in the distance and . . .  then, having fallen in love withe place, confront an admit rate like that of Cornell.

I will be delivering more detailed advice in upcoming columns on how to deal with this as you develop application strategy, which starts with looking at the full suite of U.C. campuses, as well as at U.C. proxies from British Columbia to destinations yet to be disclosed.  For the moment, let’s turn our attention to another “controversy” that probably adds resentment to those of you who are Californians.

Here it is:  the California State Auditor recently released a “highly critical report” on the U.C. and revealed (gasp) that U.C. is admitting more out-of-state studentsHere is the gist:

“Nonresident enrollment in the UC system increased by 82 percent, or 18,000 students, from 2010-11 to 2014-15, while in-state numbers fell by 1 percent, or 2,200 students”

For some historical perspective, the U.C. system originally admitted the top 12.5% of students in California–then they dropped that to top 10%, and now it’s closer to the top 8%, but this is no longer a solid number that is part of the mission statement for serving Cali students. But none of this is really  news.  The numbers have been out there.  The regents at each stage announced the retreat from California admissions and were clear about budgets and their need for increased funding via out-of-state tuition.  This was not proclaimed on billboards or in radio ads, but they did put it out there for anybody who wanted to pay attention.  And the auditor’s report as well as the  outrage  is highly political, an intentional pot-stirring by an assemblyman working on his career, with Governor Brown lurking somewhere in the background. Not to mention those jumping on the bandwagon, like San Ramon assemblywoman Catherine Baker, who wants to cut taxes, not increase U.C. funding and cap out-of-state enrollment . . . . to fix things . . . .which amounts to promising more with less.  Works pretty well in Zen koans, not so well in running an institution of higher education.  For more on that,  I quote and link the Contra Cost Bee:  “Baker’s approach sounds a lot like the words and actions of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.”

All I can add is this:  if affects your kids–or you–now,  or will affect your kids, you can have an influence.  Read up on my links.  Talk to people about it.  Vote early and vote often.  And then plan around it for admissions.

The enrollment facts are partly due to enrollment policy changes in 1986 and to   a wider effect of disinvestment in public goods (which is a  subject way too large for this column, or any column, for that matter–a book would be needed).  What is annoying to me is the supposed surprise of so many, and the attitude of politicians, who seem to think that funding can freeze and so can tuition.  In particular, I’m looking at  Governor Brown when I say this, and I have voted for Jerry every time he has run for  office.  So message to the Gov:  Sure, for a year or two you can freeze things while you work out your problems, then you have to pay the bills.  And just cutting janitors and tech support is not going to fix the budget for the U.C.

Please note:  I do not think tuition should increase.  But I know more money is needed, and this squeeze will soon begin to affect the U.C. system and Berkeley in particular, in ways students will feel . . . actually it already is happening,  not just in the jobs lost, but also in the support for students that those 500 employees represent.  Need that computer lab to be repaired?  Sorry, maybe next month.  For more, I quote and link this:

“Class sizes are ridiculous and desks are broken,” said Rebecca Ora, a doctoral candidate in film and digital media.

As for the Ivy-League admissions numbers, the enrollment policy change I mention occurred in 1986.  Prior to that year, students could only apply to one U.C. campus; if they were not admitted, they would then be redirected to another campus.  Pretty simple, if limited in terms of choice, and to control the outcome, students chose one campus they preferred and that they felt they had a good chance to be enrolled in. Most were okay if they were shunted from Berkeley to, say, Davis or San Diego.    So keep in mind that some of the crazy numbers for Berkeley–and U.C.L.A.–are driven by the multiple admissions policy as well as by the high, international profile of those campuses.  Pretty much everybody applying to the U.C. system at large applies to Berkeley and Los Angeles, even if they really think Riverside is their real target–Why not, when there is no real downside?

For a quick history of U.C. admission, have a look here:  Frontline on U.C. Admissions

But back to that budget:  here’s the news at U.C. Berkeley–

150 million dollar Budget Deficit

500 Job Cuts

Again, if you do not need to follow the news on state government and education in general, you might find this anywhere from confusing to outrageous–after all, did we not pass proposition 30, thus increasing taxes and so securing funding?  Well, yes we did.  But even then, in 2012, this still left a 1 billion dollar deficit, yep billion with a B, due to funding shortfalls going all the way back to the financial meltdown of 2008-2009 and to not funding obligations back to the turn of the century. Berkeley Chancellor Dirks announced in February of this year that he forecasts a 150 million deficit.

Expect other campuses to have problems as well.  One of the causes is pensions costs, but of course for years the U.C.  stopped contributing to pensions and now the U.C. system as a whole–as part of their budget from the state– must make contributions to catch up.  Lest I sound too much like Catharine Baker, I add that U.C. and therefore the State of California had contracts with pay and benefits that they signed and should stand behind, and that the big decisions were made in the legislature and in the Governor’s office–going back through Schwarzenegger’s time, btw.  In my view, throwing employees overboard after making an agreement in exchange for labor and services is immoral and I know that this would  lead to an exodus of employees that serve students–like that engineering professor who is or will in the near future be teaching your kid–as well as making it harder for U.C. to recruit good profs and support people.

It is true that U.C. has bloat in administration, but technology has led to increasing need for technology administration, as have new requirements for programs and services.  You want somebody to police discrimination or to oversee additional support to ensure graduation rates, you gotta pay for their salaries.

The upside for you, Oh Applicant or Parent of Applicant is that part of the deficit comes from an agreement fought over, excuse me, negotiated between U.C. President Napolitano and Governor Brown, an agreement that freezes tuition while increasing the number of California students by 10,000 over a three-year period.  For the coming application season, this means that an additional 2,500 students from California will be admitted.  So this is good:  the current 13,400 tuition and fees will rise only at about 3% per year and you have a better chance of getting in, Oh California Resident, and a pretty much equal chance to last year, if you are not a state resident.

While the idea that your first-year tuition, if you apply in the fall of 2016 will go up by 3% sounds bad, it’s not, relative to what might have happened.   This 3% per year rise means that in 2020 you will pay about 15,500–but in projections back in 2012-2014, tuition was going to be in the 20,000 dollar range by 2020.  You will save around 12,000 dollars because of this agreement, over four years, if you start school in the fall of 2017.   So more California students will get in, with little impact on out-of-state applicants, and you will pay less than the U.C. planned back on 2014.

My final note is this:  I know that 2,500 admits for California students seems a pittance when there were 206,000 applicants for the U.C. system this year. And it is a paltry number, at 1.2% of that total of over 200,000–but also note that fall 2015 admissions saw 92,324 students admitted out of a total of 158,338 applications.  And it is much better than a decline in California resident enrollment.  So cheer up and apply to Santa Cruz and Riverside and have a good overall list of application targets.  U.C. Merced . .  . better for a transfer after two years in a community college, in my opinion.  More on that in another post.