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 Stories for April 1, 1998:

Admission Numbers Disappoint
Chancellor Pledges to Keep Berkeley’s Doors Open to All Californians

by Jesús Mena and Gretchen Kell, Public Affairs
posted Apr. 1, 1998

In the most competitive admissions process in Berkeley’s history, selection of the fall 1998 freshman class is nearly complete. So far, 8,034 individuals – selected from a record 29,961 applicants – have been offered admission for the coming school year.

At a press conference Tuesday, Chancellor Robert Berdahl announced Berkeley’s fall 1998 admissions data to more than 30 news organizations including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Joining him at Sibley Auditorium in the Bechtel Engineering Center were Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Carol Christ; Genaro Padilla, vice chancellor for undergraduate admissions; Patrick Hayashi, associate vice chancellor for admission and enrollment; Bob Laird, director of undergraduate admission and relations with schools; and Jenny Franchot, a Berkeley professor who chairs the Academic Senate Committee on Admissions, Enrollment and Preparatory Education.

Berkeley is the most selective public university in the country, with only one in four applicants – less than 27 percent of all who apply – being admitted for the fall semester. Because in recent years more students than anticipated have chosen to enroll, the campus made 416 fewer offers of admission for fall 1998.

The admissions office recently mailed the letters of acceptance, and many students already have received their news. Campus administrators project that 3,485 of the admitted students will enroll in August.

During the past few years, a special faculty committee has revamped Berkeley’s admissions policy. In compliance with Proposition 209 and UC Regents Resolution SP-1, the new policy does not consider race or ethnicity as factors in the admissions process.

With almost half its applicant pool made up of individuals with a 4.0 or higher grade point average, Berkeley has been moving toward an admissions process that can better distinguish one bright applicant from another. Under the new process, the academic and non-academic accomplishments of each individual applicant are examined carefully, as well as the context in which those successes were achieved. Each application receives at least two in-depth readings, each by a different person.

The racial and ethnic composition of the fall 1998 freshman class will differ significantly from that of last year. African-Americans, Chicanos, Latinos and American Indians together comprise 10.4 percent of the total pool of admitted students – a 54.7 percent drop from the proportion of underrepresented minorities in 1997.

Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl expressed serious concerns about the drop in African-Americans, Chicanos, Latinos and American Indians.

“I am disappointed that our entering class will not better represent the impressive diversity that distinguishes this state,” said Berdahl. “We know from our own experience that a great many of the underrepresented minority students who were not offered admission would have succeeded here and would have contributed to the excellence of this university.”

Berdahl added, “For the past decade and longer, California’s high school students from all backgrounds and ethnicities have had a reasonable hope of attending Berkeley. Now our job is to build a new foundation for preserving that hope in a new environment.”

Many of the high-achieving minority students who would have been admitted in previous years now will attend other prominent institutions of higher education, he said.

“I believe this will be a loss to Berkeley, and, if they leave the state, for the future leadership of California,” said Berdahl.

With fall 1998 admissions basically complete, Berdahl said, “This campus intends to do all that is possible to encourage African- American, Chicano, Latino and American Indian students who have been admitted to enroll at Berkeley. I will personally phone as many of these students as I can, and I am asking our faculty, staff and student leaders to join me in this effort. In addition, I will be visiting high schools in the state to urge all students admitted to Berkeley, and especially students of color, to become part of our learning community.”

The most substantial decline is among African-American students admitted to the campus. They comprise 2.4 percent of the total pool of admitted students – a decline of 64.3 percent from the proportion of underrepresented minorities admitted last year. A year ago, 562 African Americans were admitted to Berkeley for the fall semester. This year, 191 African Americans are being offered admission.

Chicanos make up 5.5 percent of the total pool of admitted fall students – a 56.3 percent drop from 1997. Last year, 1,045 Chicanos were admitted, as compared with 434 Chicanos admitted for fall 1998. The 166 Latinos admitted to Berkeley for fall 1998 comprise 2.1 percent of the total pool of admitted students – a decrease of 21 percent from last year. In 1997, 221 Latinos were admitted to the campus.

American Indians represent 0.3 percent of the total pool of admitted students for fall 1998 – a decline of 58.9 percent from 1997. There were 69 American Indians admitted for fall 1997, compared to 27 American Indians for fall 1998.

Berkeley also has admitted another 2,475 students to the spring 1999 semester. Of these students, 336 – or 14 percent – are African American, Chicano, Latino or American Indian. This is an increase over the 8.7 percent of spring 1998 admitted students who were underrepresented minorities.

Thus, African-American, Chicano, Latino and American Indian students make up 11.3 percent of the total pool of admitted students for fall 1998/spring 1999, compared to 20 percent of the total pool for fall 1997/spring 1998. The campus admits new freshmen for spring because significant numbers of Berkeley students graduate in December, at the end of the fall semester.

In the overall pool of admitted students, the proportions of whites and Asian-Americans rose this year.

Asian-American admitted students comprise 38.3 percent of the total pool of admitted fall students, a rise of 7.7 percent from fall 1997.

Last year, 2,925 Asian Americans were admitted to Berkeley. This year, 2,998 Asian Americans were offered fall admission.

White students are 34.2 percent of the total pool of students admitted for fall 1998, an increase of 3.2 percent from fall 1997. Last year, 2,725 whites were admitted to Berkeley. This year, there are 2,674 whites admitted.

On their fall 1998 applications, a record percentage of admitted students –15.8 percent , or 1,237 individuals – declined to state their race or ethnicity. This is an increase of 162.2 percent over last year.

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