The University of California, Merced, marks a major milestone this week with the start of the 2014-15 academic year — its 10th since opening its doors in 2005 as the first new UC campus in 40 years.
“We begin the year with our strongest class of incoming freshmen, and the largest and most diverse student body in our history,” UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland said. “The hopes and aspirations of these talented young scholars serve as a poignant reminder of why UC Merced was established and the promise it holds for many generations to come.”
The freshman class of 2018 is expected to total approximately 1,550 students when the final tally is announced this fall, pushing total enrollment to about 6,360 students. That compares with total enrollment of 6,195 last year and just 875 in UC Merced’s inaugural year. Graduate students are expected to make up roughly 400 of the total, up from 358 in 2013-2014.
“We continue to see strong demand for admission from all over the state, despite an uneven rebound in the California economy,” said Leland.
“Our students enjoy the many benefits of a UC-caliber education in an intimate, personalized environment unlike any other in the UC system. It’s a formula that resonates with young men and women who want to be more involved in shaping their education and the campus they’ll call home for the next four years.”
Once again this year, the size of the incoming class was somewhat limited by the amount of classroom, housing and administrative space available on campus, Leland said.
“Increasing capacity as rapidly and cost-effectively as possible continues to be one of our top priorities,” she said. “The opening this fall of Science and Engineering Building 2, which will add 102,000 square feet of space, will be enormously helpful.”
Plans to add additional facilities, both on and off campus, to accommodate 10,000 students by 2020 remain on track, she added.
“A key element of our mission is to increase access to the UC system for all students who qualify,” said Leland. “We are pleased to see strong interest both from within the Valley, where historically low college-going rates are rising rapidly, and from virtually all other regions in the state.”
UC Merced continues to make hands-on research activity a fundamental part of the student experience, starting with freshman year, Leland said. Students work side-by-side with acclaimed faculty members on understanding and finding solutions to many of society’s most challenging problems, from chronic illness, health disparities and their environmental influences to rapidly changing economic, cultural and climate conditions in the Valley and around the world.
UC Merced faculty members attracted $13.7 million in research grants last year to support this activity, bringing the campus total since inception to more than $131 million.
“Many of society’s toughest problems exist in microcosm right here in the San Joaquin Valley, making it a rich environment for real-world research with global significance,” said Leland. “This emphasis on cutting-edge research is a hallmark of the UC system and the key to California’s prominence as a cradle of innovation, discovery and invention.”
As the campus begins its tenth academic year, its growing contributions are testament to the determination and creativity of the founding faculty and administrative team, many of whom remain on the job, and the strong support of the community, Leland said.
“It is humbling to think of the unwavering dedication of everyone involved with the university’s development since 2005, including our growing alumni base and incredibly generous benefactors,” she said. “I simply cannot imagine reaching this milestone without the commitment of so many who believed in our mission and helped give it life, for which all of us will be forever grateful.”