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A New President and an Economic Crisis

The Debate over Admissions


Research and Economic Growth

New Directions for Outreach

Tidal Wave II and New Approaches to Admission

Achievement versus Aptitude


The University Past and Present

University of California Campuses

Presidents of the University of California

Chief Campus Officers and Chancellors of the University of California


Chapter 37: Tidal Wave II and New Approaches to Admission

As the new century opened, demand for the University showed no signs of diminishing. UC was inundated with 92,000 freshman and transfer applications for 39,000 places in fall 2001. In the years between 2000 and 2010, it would need to grow by more than 50,000 students—5,000 students annually—to accommodate Tidal Wave II, the children of the Baby Boomers who would be seeking a UC education. And it would need to grow at an even faster annual rate and over a longer period of time than it had during the first tidal wave in the 1960s and 1970s. Such rapid expansion posed real challenges for the University, including the need to recruit some 7,000 new faculty members over that same decade without compromising UC's high standards of quality.

Inevitably, the stresses of expansion focused even more attention on the University's admissions policies and practices. Given that demand for places at most campuses exceeded supply, the means UC employed to select students would attract increasingly intense public and legislative scrutiny. It was imperative for the University to see that its admissions policies were, in President Atkinson's words, "demonstrably inclusive and fair."

"We should do this," President Atkinson stated, "by assessing students in their full complexity, which means considering not only grades and test scores but also what students have made of their 'opportunities-to-learn,' the obstacles they have overcome, and the special talents they possess."28 In pursuit of this goal the President proposed, and the Academic Senate and the Regents approved, several new approaches to admissions.

At the heart of these proposals was an effort to reconcile the University's traditionally high expectations of students with the realities of intense competition for admission, burgeoning cultural and social diversity, and the dramatically different learning opportunities available to California's young people. Their effect was twofold: to open up new avenues to the University, and to move it away from quantitative admissions formulas and closer to the kind of broad assessment of students' abilities and accomplishments practiced in selective private universities.


28. Richard C. Atkinson, "The California Crucible: Demography, Excellence, and Access at the University of California," Keynote Address, International Assembly of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, San Francisco, July 2, 2001.





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Last updated 09/29/05.