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The Most Diverse UC Class: Snapshot of Fall 2020

Fall 2020: Most Diverse UC Class

The University of California (UC) system made headlines across the country last week for accepting its most diverse class ever for Fall 2020. Let’s dig further into this story, shall we? We will journey into the specifics for Fall 2020 UC admissions, as well as broader population and policy trends.

Largest Number of Californians

The fall admissions are also remarkable for the largest group of accepted California residents in the history of the UCs. From the Los Angeles Times:

Overall, the UC system’s nine undergraduate campuses offered admission to a record number of students: 119,054 freshmen, up from 108,178 last year. The campuses also admitted 28,074 transfer students from the California Community Colleges system.

The UC prides itself on retaining a high proportion of Californians, and did so at a rate of 75.8% last year.

First Time That Latinos Are Largest Ethnic Group for UCs Systemwide

According to U.S. Census data, Latinos are the largest single ethnic group in California, at 39.4%; the next largest group is non-Hispanic Whites, at 36.5% while Asians come in third, making up 15.5%. At a distant fourth is African-Americans at 6.5% while Native Americans clock in at 1.6%. Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders represent .5%. However, Fall 2020 is distinct in that it is the first time Latinos constitute the largest ethnic group of accepted UC students, systemwide. This connects to California populations trends overall.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Audrey Dow, senior vice president for the Campaign for College Opportunity, said demographics are one reason behind the surge in admission offers to Latinos: They made up 51.8% of California high school graduates in 2018-19 compared with 42% in 2009-10, according to state Department of Education data. Equally important, the number of Latino high school graduates who met UC and California State University admission requirements hit 94,297 in 2019, an increase of about 7,000 students over 2017.

Asian-Americans: Biggest Ethnic Group at Most UC Campuses

Currently, Asian-Americans are the biggest single ethnic group at every UC campus, except for UC Merced. From the Los Angeles Times:

Overall, UC campuses — notably Merced, Santa Cruz, Riverside and Berkeley — increased admission offers to California Latino freshman by 4,068 over last year, compared with 2,400 more Asian American students who were accepted. Those numbers pushed Latinos into the largest group of admitted students systemwide, although Asian Americans still lead the student population at all individual campuses except UC Merced.

At UC Irvine, Asian-Americans were 51% of the Fall 2020 freshman class. Meanwhile, at UC San Diego, Asian-Americans made up 47%. At UCLA both and UC Berkeley, Asian-Americans were 42%.

Educational Role of the UC

The UC system is the jewel of the California public education system, possibly the envy of the world for its mixture of research excellence as well as churning out thousands of graduates each year. The Encyclopedia Brittanica observes:

California is oriented toward tax-supported public education. The two-year junior or community college was introduced in California in 1907, and there are now more than 100 such colleges. Four-year state colleges and the University of California system complete the public higher-education structure. The University Extension system operates throughout the state. More than one-tenth of California schoolchildren and a slightly higher percentage of college-age students attend private schools.

Economic Contributions of the UC

From Business Insider:

The University of California system, including UCLA and the University of California, contribute more than $46 billion yearly to the state's economy. With 1.7 million living alumni, the University of California system has produced 61 noble laureates.

Meanwhile, the California State University system produces $17 billion a year in economic activity and one in every 10 California workers is a graduate, as more than half of alumni stay in the state.

As you probably already know, California boasts a lot of economic activity. From Business Insider:

If California were its own nation, it would be the fifth largest economy in the world. With a GDP of $2.9 trillion, California would slot between Germany and the United Kingdom in the world's top economies. The Golden State makes up 14% of the US economy

Thus, the UC system is a major component of the public education system which creates the conditions that allow such economic activities to flourish. However, the hunger for college graduates is not an easy thing to address. What is it like to be in the shoes of the UC?

What is the “job” of the UC system?

The UC is part of the public education system, and is responsible for graduating vast numbers of graduates, and is indeed on-track to graduate ever-increasing numbers of students in the coming years. The U.S. Census Data shows that 33% of Californians hold a college degree, close to the national average of 36% overall.

First Generation College & Low-Income

The UC makes it a priority to secure spots for students who are among the first in their families to attend college and those from low-income households. 45% of Fall 2020 admits were first-generation. And 44% came from low-income families; those earning $52,000 or less.

It is worth noting that the UC prides itself on successfully matriculating more first generation students than other selective institutions:

UC educates more first-generation students than other institutions of its caliber. Some 42 percent of all UC undergraduate students are first-generation college students, up from 36 percent a decade ago. This fall, an estimated 45 percent of the freshman class will be striving to be the first in their families to earn a four-year university degree. UC enrolls a higher proportion of first-generation undergraduate students than other selective public institutions (27 percent) and selective private institutions (18 percent), and more than the national average for all four-year institutions (36 percent).

California is Losing College Graduates

There are multiple trends affecting the number of college graduates in California: aging, immigration, people leaving the state for less expensive environments. Over the next twenty years, the supply of college graduates might very well run out as people retire. The University of California Information Center notes:

California’s population will grow older as the baby boomers, persons born during the demographic post-World War II “baby boom,” move into retirement. Of all age groups, the baby boomer segment has the highest proportion of college degree attainment. With their retirement, then, the employed population could become less well-educated at the same time that the demand for college-educated workers within occupational categories continues to grow and the number of college-educated workers migrating into California is declining.

Out-Migration - People Leaving California

The U.S. Census recorded: “California had the most domestic out-movers, with 661,026 people moving to another state within the past year.” Yet the county with the most people leaving, Los Angeles, also had the highest number of people entering: “Los Angeles County, Calif., had the highest in-migration flow, with 214,577 people moving from a different county within the past year."

Foreign Immigrants Make California Younger

On the upside, foreign immigrants make California a relatively “younger” state when compared to other parts of the U.S.

From Thoughtco:

Foreign immigrants, in general, tend to be in the age ranges where they are in their prime working years and having families, contributing to the youthfulness of the state's demographics.

In fact, California was a bit more youthful than the nation's median age, at 36.2 years and 37.8 years respectively (2016 numbers.) Also, 63% of all the people in the state in 2016 were in the 18–64 age range. That percentage is expected to decline modestly by 2060.

Where Do You Fit Into the UC Picture?

As you make your college lists, just as you would for any college you would consider applying to, you will need to figure out where the UC sits within your plans. So let’s take a look at some major categories for UC admissions for freshman applicants.

California Residents: Statewide and Local Guarantees

If you are in the top 9% of all high school students in the state of California, you could be in luck!

If you're in the top 9 percent of California high school graduates and aren't admitted to any of the UC campuses you apply to, you'll be offered a spot at another campus if space is available. We use a formula — called an admissions index —to determine if you fall in that group.

If you are in the top 9% and your high school participates in the “Eligibility in the Local Context” program:

If you are a California resident and rank in the top 9 percent of students in your California high school class — and your high school participates in our ELC program — you may be eligible for ELC designation.


Non-residents of California are subject to nearly the same UC requirements except that the minimal GPA is higher at 3.4 and there are no bonus points for honors courses when calculating that GPA.

International Students

International students are also subject to the 3.4 GPA minimum. They must also furnish proof of English language proficiency, and must satisfy country-specific requirements based upon nation of origin.

Enlighteens Education Perspective

We bring you this information so that you may make informed choices about your college planning. As you consider the University of California as part of your college list, we hope that this information will give you an objective and grounded basis for setting expectations in terms of acceptances and outcomes.

As we have mentioned in other blog posts (we recently covered the UC’s policy changes regarding standardized exams over the next five years), we encourage families to use neutral, factual data when making major decisions regarding their educational journeys.

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