It should be apparent to most that the arms race for UC admission has gotten out of hand. Each kid can only attend one school. Every UC (and CSU) campus experienced a marked increase in applications in the 2016-17 admissions cycle. The UC system overall received 111,600 in-state applications for fall 2017 according to a press release on the UC website. Compare that with 93,460 in-state applications received for 2012 per the UC website. Top students get multiple acceptances. The next tier get some, though perhaps not the ones they would prefer. Those immediately below get waitlisted or rejected. There is a better way.
The increase in applications is likely due to demographics, unaffordable private tuition, a race for reputation, and an increasing recognition that the competitiveness of the UC/CSU admission process has gotten out of control. More safeties = more applications. Unfortunately, the higher number of applications at each campus just worsens the situation, as the admissions officers can pay less attention to each application and can no longer estimate yield correctly. In turn, the applicants apply to more and more schools that they would prefer not to attend. Read on. I have a proposed solution.
As an aside--the extreme emphasis on GPA in admissions formulas is troubling, as unlike standardized tests, grades can be gamed. It unfairly penalizes students at uber-competitive high schools and washes out any students who experience temporary medical or academic issues. It encourages grade inflation. It promotes cheating. It robs teenagers of the chance to just be kids. SAT and ACT do have their own issues, yet they are in fact standardized. Grades are not.
The UC policy of offering more spots for OOS and international admission has bumped the admission bar from the top 12% of California HS students up to the top 9%. IMHO, that is unacceptable, as it limits the publicly-funded opportunities for highly qualified California residents. See the UC website and search "freshman admissions summary." In fall 2009, 95% of enrolled UC freshmen were California residents. In fall 2015, 79% were in-state. Freshman enrollment averages 33,000. So there has been a net reduction of just over 5,000 freshman spots for California kids.
Admission by major seems a necessary evil. That said, the UCs and CSUs need to be far more transparent with applicants as to how their choice of major affects their opportunities to gain entrance. A few clicks can make all the difference in the world. Let's look at one example, Computer Science. Based on CPSLO's published data, I estimate that between 4,500 and 5,000 students are attempting to gain freshman admission this year to top California CS programs at the 9 UCs and the 2 Cal Polys. A forum member has attempted to ferret out the actual number of spots. It's challenging, as that information is closely held at many schools. So let's take CPSLO and its 130 freshman CS positions as the median. Multiply by 11 top schools and you get 1,430. Divide that by 5,000 applicants. The result is 28.6%. Typical acceptance rates for that major appear to be far lower than that--one informal estimate of UCSB acceptance for Comp Sci this year was 6%. We are seeing a mismatch of supply and demand.
Transfer from CCCs has been effectively blocked for many students by exclusion of certain majors from guaranteed transfer (TAG) and incomplete articulation agreements that do not provide a path. See assist dot org to check some examples that pertain to your kids. CS and other STEM majors, as well as Nursing, are severely impacted. UCLA, UCB and UCSD no longer participate in TAG at all. It is a mess.
Medical residencies experienced similar issues in previous decades, ending up in complete chaos. The solution was the National Resident Matching Program, introduced in 1952. See nrmp dot org. The 2017 Match was just completed, matching almost 36,000 applicants with 32,000 positions. About 28,000 of these were for first year positions. U.S. M.D. degree graduates numbered 19,000. No affiliation other than the fact that I went through it many years ago, and currently participate in ranking graduating med students for our residency positions.
Consider what a California Match might look like. According the California Department of Education website, there are about 500,000 high school seniors in our state. The top 12% equal 60,000 while the top quartile (25%) would number 125,000. Total college-bound seniors might be 40% or 200,000. The UC overall yield rate was 53% in 2015 (103,259 applications, 61,181 admissions, 32,630 enrollments). Hidden in these data are that many students get multiple admissions, some get one or two, and the schools have to guess at their individual yields. Yields by major are even trickier.
So, for the half of qualified seniors who definitely want UC (or UC + CSU), the Match would do the following:
- Each student would rank their preferred campuses, colleges and majors from 1 to 50, or even 1 to 100. Undeclared OK.
- The student rank list would be known only to the student and would be submitted electronically to the Match.
- Campuses, colleges and departments would rank the applicants for each major to which they have applied from 1 up to a large number that is sufficient to fill the major. The rank list would be known only to the campus.
- The matching algorithm would be controlled by student preference and limited only by space availability.
- The Match would be binding on both parties. One spot per student.
- A student rank list might look like:
1. UCLA - College of Engineering - EECS
2. UCSD - Warren College - Electrical Engineering
3. UCSD - Revelle College - Computer Science
4. Cal Poly SLO - College of Engineering - Computer Engineering
99. CSU Hogwarts - College of Arts and Crafts - Basketweaving (no offense intended to any basketweavers!!)
100. CSU any - Undeclared
- The algorithm would run iteratively - here's an example:
- The first choice of each student would be compared against the schools' rankings. If the student's first choice is also the school's first choice, a Match occurs. That student and that spot are matched. For example, each student whose first choice falls within the rank of 1 - 130 at CPSLO for CS would be instantly assigned a spot and removed from the Match. Matched students would no longer be competing for spaces elsewhere as the algorithm continues to run. The algorithm would run again and again with one less student and one less spot, moving down the students' and schools' rank lists until all available spots are filled in order, according to the highest possible preference of each student.
Students would get their most-preferred available campus and major without all the drama. Schools would get students who really want to go there.
Given the numbers involved, this is entirely feasible. We should insist that it happen. Thoughts? Flames? :)