University of California applications surge to record

University of California campuses from Davis to San Diego saw dramatic increases in the number of transfer students applying for the fall of 2010, fueling a rise in applications statewide to their largest number ever despite steep hikes in student fees, according to data released Thursday by UC's Office of the President.

A record 134,029 students applied to UC during the application period that closed Nov. 30 — even though regents voted earlier in November to raise fees by 32 percent. The increase in freshmen applicants was modest — 2.4 percent. In contrast, transfer applications were up 17.5 percent statewide.

"The growth really occurred at the transfer level, and it is significant," Susan Wilbur, UC's director of undergraduate admissions, said in a phone call with reporters. "We're very pleased about that because we know beginning your higher education at a community college is a cost-effective way to obtain a baccalaureate degree. It's good for the students and the state."

Merced, Riverside and Irvine saw the largest increases in transfer applicants, while Los Angeles and Berkeley had the smallest growth in that category.

University and community college leaders had several ideas about why so many more transfer students are applying to UC, and most of them have to do with the economy — from growing state budget cuts to dwindling personal bank accounts.