UC Davis admits 60 percent of international students but 36 percent of in-state applicants

UC Davis is scouring the globe to find its next students.

Among the nine University of California campuses that enrolls undergraduates, UC Davis admitted the highest number of international students for the upcoming school year, according to admissions data released Thursday.

Out of nearly 14,000 international applicants, UC Davis accepted 8,415 students, an admit rate of 60.4 percent. By comparison, 18,480 California residents were accepted from the 51,425 who applied – a success rate of 35.9 percent. The number of residents admitted was slightly down compared to 2016, in line with the overall trend at other campuses.

In recent years, UC leaders have come under fire for rapidly hiking international enrollment, sometimes at the expense of slots for in-state residents. UC officials have defended the policy, noting that out-of-state students pay an average of $40,182 in tuition and fees annually, which is an important source of revenue for the institution. In-state students pay $13,500 in tuition and fees and are subsidized by the state.

Asked Thursday to respond to the surge in international admissions relative to other campuses, Ebony Lewis, the school’s executive director of undergraduate admissions, said: “Those are decisions that are made in consultation with our leadership.”

Stephen Handel, associate vice president for undergraduate admissions at the UC Office of the President, said the admissions goals are a local affair. “It’s the campuses’ call in determining where they want to create the mix,” he said.

Handel suggested that the yield rate – the probability of someone accepting an offer to attend – is probably lower at UC Davis for international applicants compared to other campuses, which is why UC Davis sends out more offers. The new data did not indicate how many students enrolled.

UC Davis has doubled down on recruitment in China, the primary source of the international student body. Nearly 2,000 undergraduates from mainland China attended the campus in 2015, up from a mere 68 in 2009, according to university officials. The school has hired a recruiter that is based in Hong Kong.

UC Davis’ embrace of China is nothing new. Private institutions like the University of Southern California and New York University draw heavily from the Asian giant. For example, half of USC’s 10,000-strong international student body hails from China.

The admissions process for in-state and out-of-state applicants is considered separate, with two pools pursuing different enrollment goals. That means a California student does not directly compete with a Chinese student, Handel said. UC administrators have emphasized that academic standards are not being lowered for the sake of attracting more international students who pay full tuition.

The University of California did not provide average test scores or grades for accepted international or in-state students in the system.

Still, the sudden increase of international students has resulted in challenges for faculty.

A UC Davis professor who asked not to be identified due to the sensitive nature of his comments said some of his Chinese students have “struggled to adapt to the American university system.”

“It’s really a big jump to go into the UC system for some of these students,” he said. “Some of them struggle with expectations, particularly in writing.”

The professor said he has also noticed a troubling trend, that the university is attracting wealthy students – the so-called “rich second generation” – who tend to care less about their studies.

Those students are the offspring of entrepreneurs and business owners who have cultivated new wealth in the past decade with the opening up of China’s economy to the world. Many of them return to China to take over the family enterprise.

“Those are the people who believe, ‘My future is already set up, so I don’t necessarily have to stretch myself here,’ ” he said.

UC admissions by campus

For this fall, the University of California system accepted 36,039 out-of-state and international students, a 4.5 percent increase over 2016. By comparison, the number of state residents admitted decreased by 1,206 students.
Chart of UC admissions 
*Unduplicated count (applications may name more than one campus)
Source: UC Office of the President
The Sacramento Bee

Richard Chang: 916-321-1018, @RichardYChang

Related stories from Sacramento Bee