Illustration by Jamie Morton

With 40,000 undergraduate applicants for the upcoming fall quarter, UC Santa Cruz broke its own application records and saw a 17.2 percent increase in freshman applications. UCSC is now second only to UCLA in application figures.

The diversity of applicants to UCSC also rose sharply, with wide variances in socioeconomic background, ethnicity, and country of origin. African-American, Chicano and Asian-American applications rose 17 percent, 22.3 percent, and 15.6 percent, respectively.

“UCSC is committed to attracting, admitting and enrolling students who are truly reflective of the diversity of the state of California,” said UCSC director of admissions Michael McCawley in a Jan. 12 press release.

SUA chair Amanda Buchanan said this speaks to the efficacy of UCSC’s outreach programs.

“An applicant profile like this goes to show how important our Student-Initiated Outreach programs are,” Buchanan said. “Specifically, Destination Higher Education, Orale and A Step Forward did amazing work this past spring in bringing in students from African-American, Chicano and Asian-American communities to see what life is like on our campus.”

Buchanan has some reservations about the campus’s shaky financial situation and how it will affect these new students.

“As we present opportunities to our students, we need to make sure that the campus is prepared to offer any resources they may need,” Buchanan said. “This becomes increasingly difficult in times of budget reductions. We need to make it clear to campus administration that prioritizing the needs of students outside of academics is equally as important for retention and quality.”

The university needs to preserve institutions that serve students from varying backgrounds, she said.

“Our Ethnic Resource Centers need to be reinvested in to preserve the amazing work that they do,” she said.

Applications from Chicano and Latino students amounted to 29.6 percent of the total, bringing UCSC closer to being a Hispanic Serving Institution (HIS). To be considered a Hispanic Serving Institution, the university’s undergraduate population must be at least 25 percent Latino. This designation provides schools with grants and support services.

“It’s a source of revenue that would be very, very helpful,” said Patricia Zavella, professor of Latin American and Latino studies (LALS) and department chair, about the HIS distinction, in a 2011 interview.

Jonathan Fox, department chair of UCSC’s Latin American and Latino studies program, said these statistics demonstrate the success of campus admissions policy.

“In fall 2005, 75 percent of incoming frosh came from households where only English was spoken,” he said. “In fall 2011, only 54 percent of UCSC frosh came from households where only English was spoken. These changes were not driven by demographics alone. Our campus admissions policies take into account a wide range of indicators for understanding students’ achievement and potential.”

In addition, out-of-state and international student applications saw similar spikes, both in numbers and percentage. McCawley said UCSC’s recent recognition by Times Higher Education as a world-class research school is at least partially responsible for this jump.

“Recognitions like these speak to students around the world about the important role our faculty play on an international stage,” McCawley said in reference to UCSC’s current ranking as third-best worldwide in terms of research impact, behind only MIT and Princeton.

With all of these numbers in mind, one thing may be true: This fall, UCSC may begin to reflect the diversity of its home state even more.

“Our student body is looking more like California,” Fox said.