The upcoming 10th University of California campus is now accepting applications for its inaugural class.

Located in the San Joaquin Valley, UC Merced is now accepting undergraduate applications from Nov. 1 through 30, and graduate students must apply by Feb. 1. The university is scheduled to open its doors Aug. 29, 2005 for its first semester, with classes starting Sept. 6, 2004. UC Merced plans to admit 600 freshmen, 300 transfer students and 100 graduate students. The three colleges at the campus – the School of Engineering, the School of Natural Sciences and the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts- would offer degrees in roughly 20 disciplines.

The campus, which has been in planning stages for the past 16 years, was originally scheduled to open Fall 2004, but was delayed for another year because of state budget cuts in 2003.

Currently, the university is developing the first 100 of the 910 acres it owns, UC Merced spokesperson Patti Istas said.

“We secured our funding for our first phase of construction … several years ago and, fortunately, that funding has stayed put,” she said. “As we’re planning future buildings, the budget [and] the cost of construction have all certainly played a part. However we’re still pushing forward to make sure our campus develops at a healthy pace.”

UC Merced Director of Admissions Encarnacion Ruiz said he expects 6,000 to 7,000 applications this November.

Sheryl Wyan, another spokesperson for the university, said although these applications are coming from all over California, UC Merced was created in part to provide a university to people in the local area.

“We have a special mission to serve the students in our region, which is basically from Bakersfield in the south to Stockton in the north, including the Sierra Foothills communities. But we’ve also had a lot of interest from students in the L.A. area and San Francisco Bay area.”

Unlike other UC campuses where academic programs are run through departments such as biology or political science, academic programs at UC Merced will be managed by one of the three schools and various on-campus institutions, Istas said.

“Students would be working with faculty on a much closer basis than I think at other schools,” Istas said.

Istas said the rapport between students and professors could be much more engaging than what other UC campuses offer because of the small faculty to student ratio. The university is hiring 60 faculty members for the Fall of 2005, Istas said.

“We have some top-notch professors from throughout the world,” Istas said. “We’ve recruited some from abroad, but many of them are actually from within the UC system and several from the University of Arizona and from other states.”

Wyan said this approach would increase students’ effectiveness in problem solving.

“In today’s society, we’re really looking at a need for bringing together different types of people to look at issues,” Wyan said. “It might be an environmental issue initially, but how does air quality, for example, impact a farmer’s business? Maybe it’s an economics issue as well.”

Istas also said the lower cost of living is another incentive to prospective students to apply to the campus.

“The cost of living [in Merced] certainly is less expensive than in most coastal cities and in most areas in California,” she said. “It’s one of the fastest growing areas and yet there’s still quite a bit of land and the prices are not so high. I’d say in general when it comes to groceries and buying of supplies, I think that applies as well.”

In a statement, UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey said the campus would provide a unique opportunity for students.

“Our first class will help shape the university, founding and leading campus activities and programs,” Tomlinson-Keasey said in the statmement. “Simultaneously, they will have unprecedented, personalized access to world-renowned scholars.”