For the first time in 15 years, the number of would-be freshmen applying to the University of California has dropped, the first sign that a national trend of declining college enrollment could be hitting the West Coast.
Applications for the coming school year dipped by 3% to 176,530, according to preliminary UC data released Tuesday. The drop could be a temporary blip, experts said. Among the system’s nine undergraduate campuses, only three — UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz — saw declines in freshman applications.
But the number of students graduating from California high schools is forecast to top out in six years. And that demographic trend already has hit the nation’s Northeastern states, where birthrates began declining years ago and enrollment has dropped even at elite institutions, such as Princeton University and MIT.
“What the California system is experiencing this year is just a taste of some of the challenges it will experience in a decade or so,” said Nathan D. Grawe, a Carleton College professor of economics and social sciences, and author of “Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education.”
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