The University of California at Berkeley plans to enroll 12 percent fewer Latino freshmen this fall than last, an effect blamed partly on its revenue-generating move to more than double the number of students it admits from outside California.
The drop in Latinos, California's fastest-growing group, was believed to be due in part to Berkeley's shift toward nonresident students, who pay much higher tuition and are overwhelmingly white or Asian. About 23 percent of next year's freshman class is expected to come from out of state, a sea change for a campus that enrolled only 11 percent of those students a year ago.
In a news conference on Wednesday, Berkeley's chancellor, Robert J. Birgeneau, said that the drop in Latino students was not as disproportionate as it may seem, citing a large number of Latinos who were admitted with this fall's class but will enroll in the spring. He also said the inclusion of Latino transfer students would make the decline much less significant.
Berkeley's numbers were part of the University of California system's release on Wednesday of a tally of the students who said they intended to enroll at one of its nine undergraduate campuses in the fall. In contrast to Berkeley, the number of Latino students rose steadily systemwide, including increases on six of the eight other undergraduate campuses. The proportion of white students systemwide dropped to a record-low 27 percent.
Freshman-admission numbers at the University of California are closely watched in the state as a key indicator of whether the state's prized public universities are serving its diverse population. The flagship campuses, in Berkeley and in Los Angeles, have struggled to enroll significant numbers of black and Latino students, constrained by budget cuts and a state ban on affirmative action in admissions.
In other areas, Berkeley and other campuses had more success attracting underrepresented minority students. Berkeley managed to keep its number of black students fairly steady, averting a fear among some faculty members that their numbers would drop. San Diego expects a slight increase in black students — from 1.3 percent to 1.7 percent of the freshman class — despite highly publicized incidents of racial tension this year.