UC Davis stokes American Dream more than most colleges, study says. Can it sustain?

Incoming freshmen tour the campus during orientation at UC Davis on Aug. 5, 2009.
Incoming freshmen tour the campus during orientation at UC Davis on Aug. 5, 2009. Sacramento Bee file

UC Davis ranks No. 3, and the University of California system comprises the top five, in the New York Times’ third College Access Index that measures their commitment to economic diversity.

The ranking combines the number of lower- and middle-income students a college enrolls and the price it charges them. Here is the top 10 out of the index’s 171 colleges:

  • UC Irvine
  • UC Santa Barbara
  • UC Davis
  • UC San Diego
  • UCLA
  • University of Florida
  • Amherst College
  • Pomona College
  • UC Berkeley
  • Harvard University

In the accompanying column, David Leonhardt writes that public colleges are “under assault” due to states’ spending cuts, resulting in many enrolling fewer students from tough economic backgrounds. And the UC system, while still topping the College Access Index, isn’t immune – with declining shares of freshmen receiving Pell grants and less state support, Leonhardt writes.

He highlights the issue of overcrowding on campuses, citing the UC system’s 15 percent increase in undergraduate enrollment over four years as it enrolls more high-income students while still providing access to those of lesser means.

“The housing shortage in Davis is just horrible,” Scott Dresser, a fourth-year student, told Leonhardt.

UC Davis ranked second in the Times’ 2015 index when it began including schools with a five-year graduation rate of 75 percent or higher from its previous cutoff that applied to a four-year graduation rate.