This year, UCSB received a record number of applicants — numbering 76,026 — and showed a 14 percent increase in the number of applications from underrepresented minority students, reflecting a nationwide trend in the increasingly diverse makeup of future college student populations.
Applicants for fall 2013 include a 14 percent increase over last year’s applicant pool, with the university accepting applications from 59 percent more students coming from a racial or ethnic background. The shifting demographics of applicants reflect the changing face of graduating high school classes nationwide. Knocking at the College Door: Projections of High School Graduates released findings earlier this month, compiled by the Interstate Commission for Higher Education, that depict a rise in the number of underrepresented ethnic groups seen in graduating high school classes, which are also said to be decreasing in size.
While the UC ensures there are heightened recruitment efforts to reach minority high school students, there are no efforts in the application process that give an advantage to these students over non-minority students, according to UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein, who cited Proposition 209 as the legal reasoning for this.
“We cannot make direct appeals for any ethnic group, or any gender or any specific group,” Klein said. “However, our program that we have in place makes an effort to go into high schools and tell all students that if they meet the requirements a UC education is accessible.”
Such efforts have increased the accessibility and availability of a UC education, making applicant pools more reflective of general state demographics, Klein said.
“The results of this latest round of applications are a testament to that,” Klein said. “In fact, for the first time, Latinos are the largest ethnic group among applicants and that reflects the demographics of high school seniors.”
The UCSB Office of Admissions has always maintained diversity as a hallmark of admissions process, Director of Admissions Christine Van Gieson said.
“Every year Admissions has three primary goals — to increase the diversity of the incoming classes, to increase the quality of the incoming classes and to meet the specified enrollment numbers,” Van Gieson said. “Ethnic diversity is, of course, one of the goals we try to achieve, as the University would like to enroll a student body that is representative of the diverse population of the state of California.”
Additionally, Van Gieson said Admissions takes campus climate into consideration when making admissions decisions, adding that the Committee on Admissions, Enrollment and Relations with Schools (CAERS) completes the majority of the work involved in this process.
“How we select students for admission is the purview of the faculty admissions committee,” Van Gieson said. “Each year CAERS carefully reviews Admissions’ practices and results, and recommended changes of all sorts are considered. CAERS weighs a number of campus concerns in an effort to build the best class possible.”
Through such application and admissions processes, the UC system, as a whole, has seen increasingly higher levels of diversity in recent years, according to Klein.
“If you look at the class that was admitted in 2012, you’ll see in the ‘admits,’ the rise in different ethnic groups,” Klein said. “In fact, so-called ‘majority students’ — which are white students — are actually a minority in the University of California, and this reflects the demographics of the state of California.”
However, the Office of Financial Aid does not consider ethnic group or race as a defining factor of need, according to Michael M. Miller, who is director of Financial Aid and Scholarships.
“The Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships does not award any financial aid based on anything other than financial need,” Miller said. “We work very hard to ensure that a UCSB education is accessible and affordable for all students here at UCSB.”
In spite of this, Klein said there is often a misunderstanding of the Blue and Gold plan, which awards financial aid based on a student’s level of financial need. Klein emphasized that the plan — awarded to students with family incomes of $80,000 a year and less — does not strive to increase diversity levels.
“It’s not geared towards any specific ethnic group at all,” Klein said. “I think there’s a misperception that only minority students are lower income, and that is not the case.”
A version of this article appeared on page 1 of January 22nd, 2013′s print edition of the Nexus.