Admissions_sarah(joe)_webUC Santa Cruz saw a record number of applicants this year: nearly 35,000.

This is the second year in a row UCSC has seen unprecedented numbers, and Michelle Whittingham, the associate vice chancellor of enrollment management, says the trend is indicative of further overall growth.

“We are definitely continuing our upward trajectory,” Whittingham said of the school’s overall reputability.

This year 34,630 students applied to UCSC, marking a 5.4 percent growth from last year’s 32,847 applicants.

UCSC’s target enrollment is 3,200 new freshmen, which is a number similar to last year’s frosh enrollment of 3,214. With a larger pool of applicants and the same number of spots available, an even more selective year is on the horizon for UCSC.

UCSC’s admission percentage — that is, the percentage of applicants who were accepted — went from 83 percent in 2007, to 74 percent in 2008, to only 63 percent last year.

The growth can be seen most dramatically in the 25-percent increase of transfer applicants. Last year, 5,616 applicants were prospective transfers, comprising 17 percent of the total applicants. This year the number rose to 7,007, accounting for 20 percent of the total applicants.

“We had hoped for an increase, but this was remarkable,” Whittingham said.

This trend is reflected across the state, as the UC saw an overall 17 percent increase in transfer applicants systemwide. Considering the dismal forecast for the state budget, this may be a lasting effect as more students begin their education at less-expensive community colleges.

“I think this is a trend we will see for years to come,” Whittingham said.

Also notable in the overall increase of freshman applicants is the increased presence of underrepresented ethnic groups. The number of African-American applicants swelled from 986 last year to 1,105 this year, a 12.1 percent increase. Similarly, Chicano/Latino applicants rose from 5,366 last year to 5,843 this year, an 8.9 percent increase; and applications from American Indian students rose from 207 last year to 267 this year, a 29 percent increase. The number of Asian-American applicants also rose.

“What you see is the applicant population reflecting the high school graduate population,” Whittingham said. “Demographics having been changing in the state of California, and you can see those changes in both sets of data.”

To Rosalee Cabrera, director of the Chicano/Latino Resource Center and interim director of the American Indian Resource Center, these changing demographics are a positive movement for the university.

“It is important, because we exist in California in broader numbers than are showing up on the campus,” Cabrera said. “I feel that it is critical for a university to represent its people.”

While the economy and societal demand for higher education explain the statewide trend, they do not explain why the increase in transfer applicants was so much more noticeable at UCSC in particular. Whittingham attributes the dramatic increase to outreach efforts.

“We have worked really hard to reach out to students and help them achieve their dream of a UC education right here in Santa Cruz,” Whittingham said.

Budgetary restrictions have limited outreach, which previously involved a more extensive physical presence at campuses statewide. But according to Ebony Lewis, outreach coordinator and regional representative for UCSC, this has allowed the university’s outreach efforts to embrace the changing technological climate.

This year, UCSC was one of several UC campuses to host “University of California Day,” a virtual college fair where students could live- or text-chat with Lewis and other members of the admissions staff.

“Because of the budget we cannot travel as much, and this is something new and different,” Lewis said of UC Day. “We’re trying to find ways to connect with students, and you have to go where they are.”