Bucking a recent trend and thwarting efforts to increase transfers, fewer community-college students than last year have applied to the University of California system for the Fall 2012 term.
Nearly 1,800 fewer students applied for transfers to the 10-campus university than a year ago despite a record 160,939 undergraduate applications overall, according to figures released Thursday.
In contrast, transfer applications to the 23-campus California State University system increased 6 percent.
UC freshman applications spiked, rising 19 percent over a year earlier.
Higher-education leaders were at a loss to explain the change in transfers.
“We’re still exploring that,” said Kate Jeffery, the interim UC admissions director. She theorized that budget cuts made community-college students unable to get the classes they need to transfer. “We think the most likely explanation is a pipeline issue.”
Budget cuts led the state’s 112 community colleges to slash thousands of classes over the past two years, leaving students fighting to get the courses needed for graduation.
One 18-year-old honors student at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, Calif., was among those whose plans ran aground.
Dor Carpel wanted to finish his community college work this winter so he could take a break to work and travel before transferring to UC Berkeley or UCLA. Instead, after finding himself seventh on the waiting list for a required computer-programming course last fall, the Cupertino resident will be spending this spring in class.
“Several people I know ended up deciding to stay for a third year,” he said. The cuts “didn’t delay me by a year, but they did change my plans.”
Several university leaders teamed up with officials from the community colleges and Cal State system in 2009 to recommend ways to smooth the road through community college to a university. Steadily more transfer applications had flowed into UC for several years in a row.
“I think folks are scratching their heads,” said Fred Wood, a UC Davis vice chancellor who was on the 2009 panel. “It could be that (students) are having to work more and are not able to take as many classes.”
A state community-college leader theorized UC’s higher prices— annual tuition there is $12,192 this year, compared to $5,472 at Cal State— might be scaring off transfer students.
“Some of it may be pure sticker shock,” said Patrick Perry, a vice chancellor for the statewide system. “I think it’s just market shift.”
The jump in freshman applications, meanwhile, reflects the university’s intention when it changed admissions criteria in 2009. The new policy, which took effect with the current batch of applicants, was meant to attract some students who previously would not have qualified for UC.
The UC figures also reflected a system-wide push for more students from other states and countries. More than 19,000 students from other states— up from 12,759 last year— and nearly 14,000 international students— up from 8,336— applied for the fall term.
Out-of-state and international students pay about $23,000 more annually for tuition than California residents.
Notifications will reach freshman applicants in March, while transfer applicants will find out in April whether they were accepted.