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HIGHER LEARNING: University of California, California State University, institute first waiting lists in history

[Editor's Note: With this issue of SubstanceNews, we are beginning one of several new topics. This one, 'HIGHER LEARNING' (with a nod to the classic film of the same title) will reprint and explore the ways in which the American ruling class, through the use of budget crises and the persistent failure to raise taxes to fund essential public services, is furthering what was once called the 'proletarianization' of larger and larger numbers of people in the USA. For more than five years, our researchers have debunked the claim by some — including the Obama administration — that higher education beyond 12th grade was available to every child who worked hard in school and got good grades from kindergarten through 12th grade. We will show how the class stratification of educational opportunity in the USA has little to do with the meritocracy that the rulers of the nation proclaim and everything to do with the ever more vicious class forces operating within American society. George N. Schmidt, Editor].

The article below was published in the Sacramento Bee of April 3, 2010.

UC, CSU wait-listing students for the first time by Laurel Rosenhall, Sacramento (California) Bee, published April 3, 2010. lrosenhall@sacbee.com, PUBLISHED SATURDAY, APR. 03, 2010

California's public universities are using waiting lists this year for the first time, telling some top-notch students to wait two more months before they find out if they're in.

The practice – long common at selective private colleges – is yet another fallout from the state's budget crisis, as the University of California and California State University look for ways to trim enrollment in response to last year's historic funding cuts.

The public universities want to admit as many students as the state funds them for – but not a single person more. Waiting lists allow campuses to fine-tune the process so they hit their enrollment targets right on the mark.

"This gives them the opportunity to take additional students if it turns out they have a little bit of space at the end of the (admissions) process," said Susan Wilbur, UC's director of undergraduate admissions.

The UC system received a record number of applications this year: 134,029. The same is true at CSU, where more than 609,000 students applied by Nov. 30 – a record for the system.

Though seen as a logical move by college officials, the waiting lists have come as a surprise to students such as Priyanka Patel, 17, who recently found out she was accepted to UC Irvine but wait-listed at UC Davis.

"I never heard of it before, and I didn't even know they did it, so I was pretty shocked," said Patel, a senior at Inderkum High School in Natomas.

She has until April 15 to decide whether she wants to opt into UC Davis' waiting list. In the meantime, Patel and her parents will tour UC Irvine.

It's not yet clear how many students are in Patel's situation. Some UC campuses have put a few hundred students on waiting lists, Wilbur said, while others have wait-listed several thousand. UC will release data on how many students have been admitted and wait-listed on April 14. Just two of UC's 10 campuses are not using waiting lists this year: Merced and Los Angeles.

At CSU, roughly 8,000 applicants have been wait-listed statewide, said spokeswoman Claudia Keith. A couple of the 23 Cal State campuses – including San Diego and San Luis Obispo – have used waiting lists for years, but the practice is new at most.

"The chancellor has instructed all campuses to begin wait lists for eligible applicants pending the outcome of the 2010-11 budget," a CSU budget document says.

Cal State will decide whether to admit students from the waiting lists — probably for the winter or spring terms — after the Legislature approves a final budget.

UC isn't waiting that long. Its campuses expect to inform wait-listed students if they've been admitted by the first week in June.

There is no cost for opting into UC waiting lists; most campuses require nothing more than an agreement a student wants to be listed. But UC Davis has asked students offered a spot to write a 200-word essay if they choose to opt in.

"It's really an opportunity for the student to inform us about their true desire to come to UC Davis," said Frank Wada, executive director of undergraduate admissions. "If we are able to take admits from the wait list, we would know this is a very strong group that really wants to come to UC Davis."

Students and counselors who have spent years honing the college application process – selecting the right classes and practicing for standardized tests – were caught off guard by UC Davis' request for an extra essay.

"This is not something students have ever been prepared for," said Debbie Eisberg, a counselor at Inderkum High. "So this is a big, frustrating shocker."

David Pino, 17, said he's not going to bother applying to UC Davis' waiting list. The Sacramento Charter High School senior has been admitted to Sacramento State, San Jose State, UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara. But he's not thinking about going to any of them.

"I'm going to another school that is going to offer me a considerable amount of financial aid," Pino said.

He's weighing grant offers from four private schools, including Occidental in Los Angeles and three on the East Coast.

Patel, the Inderkum student, said she probably will write the essay to get on the UC Davis waiting list. She thought she'd get in the first time around, with a 4.0 grade-point average and a ranking that puts her 11th in her class of 412 students.

In the fall, Patel really wanted to go to Davis so she could save money by living with her parents and keeping her job at a local gym. Now, she's not so sure.

"Something about getting wait-listed, it discourages me from going there," she said. "It feels like Irvine wants me and at Davis, like I'm second choice." 



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