UC and CSU Campuses Don’t Have Room for Eligible Student Applicants

California has more eligible students for admission to the state's public universities than those campuses have space for.

A new report released this month by The Campaign for College Opportunity highlights that more eligible students are applying to the University of California and California State University campuses than those colleges can admit. The lack of capacity means that fewer qualified Latino and Black students are applying to these universities.

It also means that the state is still projecting a shortfall of workers with bachelor's degrees and ranks 34th nationally in awarding four-year degrees.

“It has gotten exceedingly difficult to get into the University of California and a growing number of Cal State campuses,” said Michele Siqueiros, president of the California-based campaign organization, which is focused on improving higher education opportunities for students. “Harder than in previous generations. It's a real issue of fairness and equity at a time when we know a college degree is valuable and more high schools are preparing for college.”

The campaign hosted a webinar Dec. 15 featuring Siqueiros, CSU Chancellor Joseph Castro, Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), and UC regent Cecilia Estolano to discuss the report.

More California high schools are eligible to attend a California public university. About half of the state's high school graduates are completing A-G courses required for admission to the UC and CSU and more California students are applying for admission to UC and CSU, according to the panelists.

The imbalance has long existed in California's public university systems, but the study emphasizes the need for change.

Eligible high school students are especially impacted and face challenges when they attempt to gain access to their preferred UC or CSU campus or a specific program. And freshman admission is highly competitive to the UC system. The average high school GPA of students admitted to the system has increased and is close to or above a 4.0 at nearly all nine undergraduate campuses, according to the report. For example, at UC Merced, students admitted to the campus have the equivalent of a 3.7 GPA.

Merced is the only UC campus that accepts students from the referral pool, which describes those high-achieving students who are not admitted to their preferred campus.  These are students who rank in the top 9 percent of their graduating high school class and meet UC eligibility. They qualify for the statewide guarantee for UC admission but not necessarily to their top choices. According to the report, nearly 12,000 UC applicants were in the referral pool in 2019. Only 553 of those opted for admission to the Merced campus and only 57 chose to enroll.

“Guaranteed admission to all eligible students is a false guarantee when they're being directed to a campus where we know 90 percent of them won't enroll,” Siqueiros said. “We think it's especially concerning in regard to CSU because students who apply to CSU are place-bound, maybe older, or have families. If they're not admitted into an institution in their region, they're unlikely to go to Humboldt in the north state or a campus far away from home.”

In the CSU system, 16 of the 23 campuses have more freshman applicants meeting statewide eligibility requirements than the physical capacity and resources to admit. And nearly all CSU campuses, except Dominguez Hills, have specific programs or majors that are at capacity. For example, more than 60 percent of business departments are at capacity across the system, especially those with accounting specializations.

Like the UC system, CSU redirects eligible freshmen who may not be admitted to the campus of their choice to a different university. But in 2020, of the more than 7,000 freshmen who were redirected only 117 enrolled.

These capacity problems mean California ranks near the bottom, at 41st, for public undergraduate enrollment in the four-year sector. In other states, four-year public universities account for the majority of undergraduate enrollment. But in California, "the vast majority of low-income, Latinx, and Black graduates never attend a four-year university," according to the report. The state sends qualified bachelor's degree-seekers to a community college instead.

Because of challenges and barriers to transfer, the state isn't producing enough bachelor's degree holders. For example, more than three-quarters of community college students plan to transfer, but only 19 percent do so within four years.

The report also highlights that Black and Latino students are significantly underrepresented in the UC system when their percentage of enrollment is compared to the eligible graduating students in the state. (Only Black students are underrepresented in the CSU.)

The report also found that among eligible Latino high school graduates who had completed A-G courses, less than half applied for admission to the UC.

“UC is celebrating record applications and admissions for Latinx students this year," Siquerios said. "But much of that is driven by reality and growth in that demographic."

Siquerios said it's concerning what's happening to Black and Latino students, that they don't apply even when they're qualified.

Black and Latino high school graduates are looking for campuses that give them a sense of belonging, are welcoming and have plenty of faculty and staff who look like them, Siquerios said.

“For Black students, we've seen the real impact that the ban on affirmative action has had on universities' ability to intentionally recruit and admit,” she said.

Data on high school graduates and their admission shows that the representation of Latinx students at CSU matches their growing share of high school graduates, but representation continues to lag at UC. Black students are somewhat underrepresented in both university systems.

At CSU the share of Black freshmen has been dropping steadily from 7.2 percent in 2007 to 4.5 percent in 2020. "California's Black students are disproportionately likely to start their college careers at a community college," the report concludes. While white students are "not much more likely than Black students to end up in a California public university," nearly 1 in 5 white high school graduates go out of state for college, the report said.

The share of the state budget invested in higher education declined from 18 percent in the mid-1970s to 11 percent in 2018-19, where it remains as of the 2021-22 budget, according to the report.

“We're fortunate we have a governor in Gavin Newsom that understands and made historical investment in the last two years,” Siqueiros said. “But we haven't done that in the course of the last 20 years, so those historic investments aren't going to make up for the many years we haven't made adequate investment.”





  1. UC and CSU campuses are already admitting and enrolling more students than they have HOUSING space for. The flagship UC locations are particularly hard hit, UCB, UCLA, UCSD; UC Santa Barbara is also known for kids who scramble for housing elsewhere, live in vehicles, have nowhere, or cancel their enrollments because of failure to find housing, as elsewhere, and Goleta is suing the Regents because of the effect on housing and on hotels (with lost taxes) in that city.

    Yes, we know many want more, more, more admissions and enrollments. However, the grown-ups prefer enough housing be built FIRST on campus sites or on school property within walking distance adjacent to campus to at least house every admitted and enrolled student, if not for multiple years as many want, graduate years included. Build enough housing FIRST to accommodate all that will be attending each campus before thinking of increasing admissions and enrollments.

  2. So typical of progressivism.

    Writing down words doesn’t make them true.

    Inflexible systems can handle so many people, a city, a state, a country, a university.

    Rent is high, pay is low, and students are living in cars because you fail to accept reality and you laugh at rethugicans and say they deny “the science.” While you deny basic facts that sit in front of your face and deny the truth.

  3. The lack of a clear presentation of ALL the statistics indicates the writer is hiding something. Progressive pablum. ?

  4. We see a hint at institutional leftist racism again, given the related Grievance.

    “Data on high school graduates and their admission shows that the representation of Latinx [sic] students at CSU matches their growing share of high school graduates, but representation continues to lag at UC. Black students are somewhat underrepresented in both university systems.”

    What are the grades and other qualifications to win an offer of admission?

    Also, what is the negative connotation with being redirected? That’s EXPECTED by us grown-ups with most students applying to the UC flagship campus locations already. Not everyone gets to attend school at the location they want.

    Next we’ll learn of progressive Millennial and Z medical graduates protesting any failure for residencies to meet progressive racist goals and quotas, and protesting that the system that admits medical graduates to residencies across the USA doesn’t always magically place people exactly where they want to go. (Then comes the demand for a pleasant living as a resident, maybe “free” housing, etc.)

  5. Another misleading title?
    “UC and CSU Campuses Don’t Have Room for Eligible Student Applicants”

    I only skimmed the article but it says in a couple places that there are spaces – just that the students do not want to go to those schools (16 of the 23 campuses were full – that leaves 7 campuses with Open Space).

    As they say Beggars Can’t Be Choosers – If you really want to go to a specific school then you need to put in the hard work and plan to have a “resume” application that hits all the tickets to get in to at least be competitive –
    dumbing down the K-12 curriculum with losing propositions like No D & F grades, Equity grading and CA Graduation levels where over 60% do not meet grade level standards is not going to do it.

    No Entitlements, No Freebies, No Victimhood, No Whining!

  6. In fact, the state legislature is seeking more admissions (as are the universities, often) and also working to favor California applicants over the higher-tuition-paying out-of-state and foreign students the campuses enjoy currently. Meanwhile, student housing is insufficient on campus and on school property nearby.




  7. How about getting immigration under control for starters? How many thousands of kids are born here that wouldn’t be here we’re it not for Progressive’s open border policy? To think this doesn’t impact schools and colleges is denial. As for Blacks being under represented, that has nothing to do with the number of applicants to UC/CSU. Blacks who merit admission get an equal opportunity to gain admission as anyone else.

  8. >Rent is high, pay is low, and students are living in cars.”
    According to the Wikipedia: “With nearly 100,000 graduates annually, the CSU is the country’s greatest producer of bachelor’s degrees.[7] The university system collectively sustains more than 150,000 jobs within the state.” I had written several educational system management essay examples that many CSU campuses, built more than a half-century ago, and in need of upgrade or replacement; https://writix.co.uk/essay-examples/management.

    >How about getting immigration under control, for starters?
    I agree that it is essential that supervisors review and discuss the CSU guidance with faculty and staff.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *