“Enrollment growth has not grown at the same pace as application growth, in part because funding for increased enrollment at UC has not kept pace with demand,” Beechem said. “UC today educates 90,000 more students than we did in the year 2000, yet our funding from the state of California has remained flat."
Anna Kate Stephenson, a first-year student at UC Berkeley, said increased application numbers naturally lead to more students being denied.
“This definitely impacts in-state high schoolers negatively since out-of-state students have higher tuition and UC schools want their extra money,” she said. “Because of this, out-of-state students are more competitive and the applicant pool as a whole is getting more competitive.”
Stephenson said it’s good that the UC system is becoming more academically rigorous and renowned, but only if schools are accepting students for the right reasons.
“It’s improving the overall brain power of the school, but I don’t think it’s a positive thing if schools are accepting students for the wrong reasons, like money,” she said. “The cost of tuition is rising at UCs, but you’re starting to get less for the high price because resources are being spread thinner to accommodate the increase in students.”
Jamison Fee, director of college counseling at Cape Fear Academy, said changes in UNC-system admissions have yet to reach the level of UC schools.
“I think what’s happened in the UC system is those lower-level UC schools have started gobbling up the international students,” he said. “With that happening, there’s less space for the traditional B+ and B student that used to be able to get in.”
UNC-Chapel Hill has seen an increase in admissions difficulty this year, Fee said.
“This year was very different,” he said. “Kids that would’ve been deferred or outright accepted last year got denied. On the other hand, schools like UNC-W, App State, UNC-Asheville, UNC-G — those are still good schools for our kids that have a 24 or 25 on the ACT and above a 3.0 average GPA.”
Fee said this trend is the result of a larger quantity of applications and a focus on rural county admissions. UNC-Chapel Hill received a record-breaking 43,384 applications for fall 2018 admission, a 6 percent increase from last year.
“There’s more kids applying, there’s a focus on rural areas — so I thought for this year that’s why some of our kids didn’t get in that typically would have,” he said. “Outside of that, it just depends ... What does Chapel Hill want their incoming class to look like? That’s unknown to me.”
Increased access to free ACT and SAT test prep may also play a role, Fee said.
“Through Khan Academy and things like that, lower socioeconomic students who may not have had access to a tutor due to finances — if they’re a hardworking kid and they really want to do it — can put in the time and effort to be a serious contender for highly selective schools,” he said.