University of California system-wide admissions data shows that a record-breaking 39 percent of all undergraduates enrolled for the Fall 2010 term come from low-income families.

Commissioned by the UC Office of the President, the results are drawn from data for the 70,000 students who received UC Pell Grants this year — nearly eight percent more than had been awarded the scholarships in 2008-09. Pell Grants are awarded to students from families with total annual incomes of less than $50,000.

UC President Mark G. Yudof presented the analysis last Friday at Grant High School in Sacramento, publicizing the data as representative of the university’s efforts to keep public higher education an option for state students from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

“The numbers in this analysis demonstrate that UC remains true to its charter as a public institution,” Yudof said in a press release. “Despite devastating budget cuts and higher student fees, we have managed not only to maintain, but to increase access for low-income students, and to enroll our most economically and ethnically diverse freshman class.”

According to Mike Miller, acting director of UCSB Financial Aid, Yudof requested the admissions statistics in order to evaluate the effects of recent fee increases. The resulting analysis, Miller said, reflects a reality seen firsthand in UCSB’s Office of Financial Aid.

“President Yudof’s recent comments regarding the changing socioeconomic makeup of students across the University of California System are truly reflective of the situation the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships at UCSB faces on a daily basis,” Miller said. “We have seen unprecedented numbers of applicants and financial appeals. Our families are needier than they have ever been.”

UC spokesperson Leslie Sepuka said Yudof held the press conference at Grant High to emphasize the continued availability of a UC education for all California residents.

While a lingering economic recession and student fee increases have forced some students out of the UC system, the university has mandated that 33 percent of revenue from recent fee increases be used for financial aid purposes.

The UCOP analysis revealed that funding for scholarships and grants has tripled over the past decade — from roughly $430 million in 2000-01 to over $1.5 billion in 2010-11 — with more than 90 percent of the designated aid being awarded to undergraduate students.

Miller said the analysis reaffirms that the UC has remained dedicated to enrolling a student body representative of California’s socioeconomic diversity.

“As a member of the University of California system, we are fortunate to be able to use the federal Pell Grant funding, Cal Grant awards and funds from our University Grant program to ensure low-income students can achieve their dream of gaining a world-class education here at UCSB,” Miller said.

The analysis also reports that the percentages of first-generation college students and underrepresented students admitted to UC have increased over the last two years. Moreover, the academic quality of the incoming freshman class has also steadily improved.

According to Yudof, a broad range of students’ socioeconomic backgrounds is essential to the UC’s continued operation.

“Being a public university is about more than what we charge for tuition, although we are still a bargain by any measurement. It’s also about who we teach,” Yudof said in a press release.  “Making sure students of modest means and first-generation college students can attend UC brings to our campuses different backgrounds and perspectives that enrich the educational experience of all students.”