Report 2015-107 Recommendation 2 Responses

Report 2015-107: The University of California: Its Admissions and Financial Decisions Have Disadvantaged California Resident Students (Release Date: March 2016)

Recommendation #2 To: University of California

To meet its commitment to California residents, the university should amend its referral process by taking steps to increase the likelihood that referred residents ultimately enroll.

Annual Follow-Up Agency Response From November 2017

The key to an effective referral pool for California resident is to make it smaller, not more attractive. When enrollment growth funding is provided, students are more likely to enroll at a campus they wish to attend rather than enroll at a campus for which they have no interest. The University's strategy in improving the referral pool for California residents is two-pronged: The first strategy is to shrink the number of students in the referral pool, which means more students are admitted to a campus of choice. President Napolitano's pledge to enroll an additional 10,000 more California resident students is advancing UC toward this goal. In 2016, when enrollment growth funding was provided by the State, the referral pool shrank by 25 percent from 2015 (the smallest referral pool in nearly a decade). The second strategy is to increase the attractiveness of the UC Merced, the campus which accommodates the most referral pool students in the UC system. In July 2016 the Regents voted to approve the Merced 2020 plan. This capital plan will make it possible for the campus to enroll significantly more undergraduate students as it also offers additional academic programs and majors. In addition, the plan increases the attractiveness of the campus by offering additional residential and student services space. . The best way to serve students is to offer them enrollment opportunities at campuses that they wish to attend. Indeed, the long-term goal of the 2020 plan is to accommodate an ever increasing number of California residents who wish to enroll at a campus having a broad array of majors and opportunities. Data indicate that this strategy is working. Since 2013, when the Merced 2020 plan was first announced, applications to the campus have increased 26 percent, the number of admitted students has increased by 43 percent and enrollment at the campus has increased by 23 percent. UC Merced is the fastest growing campus in the UC system.

  • Estimated Completion Date: Full implementation in 2020 with completion of UC Merced 2020 Project

California State Auditor's Assessment of Annual Follow-Up Status: Partially Implemented

While we agree that increasing overall resident admissions and improving the attractiveness of the Merced campus will likely increase the proportion of referred students who enroll, the vast majority of students referred to UC Merced continue to decline enrollment offers. Specifically, the university noted that 182, or 2 percent, of the 9,598 fall 2015 freshmen in the referral pool enrolled at Merced in academic year 2015-16. Until the university is able to increase the proportion of students who ultimately accept offers to a referral campus, we will not consider this recommendation to be fully implemented.


1-Year Agency Response

To increase the likelihood that referred students consider enrollment at Merced, UC continues to expand educational offerings and facilities at that campus. In July 2016 the Regents of the University of California voted to approve the Merced 2020 plan—an ambitious capital plan to build new academic, residential, and student services space that will greatly enhance Merced's desirability and its ability to offer a broader range of academic and co-curricular programs. UC's commitment to providing excellent facilities and programs at UC Merced sends a powerful signal to potential students that Merced is an excellent academic choice.

  • Estimated Completion Date: Full implementation in 2020 with completion of UC Merced 2020 Project
  • Response Date: March 2017

California State Auditor's Assessment of 1-Year Status: No Action Taken

As we stated in our 60-day and 6-month public assessment, our recommendation indicates that the university should amend its referral process to increase the likelihood that referred residents ultimately enroll. The university's response highlights actions that it took prior to the release of our audit report--actions that did not notably increase the enrollment rates of referred residents.

This recommendation will remain as no action taken until the university provides specific actions that it will implement to increase the enrollment of referred residents above the 1 to 2 percent rate experienced over the past four academic years.


6-Month Agency Response

The University shares the goal of finding means to increase the number of students currently admitted through the referral pool who ultimately enroll at UC—either at Merced or on other campuses. The University does not agree with the auditor's assessment that no action has been taken on this recommendation since the date of the auditor's report. As noted in our 60-day response, admission offers made in April-June 2016 had the effect of reducing the size of the referral pool (an even better outcome than increasing the yield of those admitted through referral) by 20 percent. .

Furthermore (and also noted in the 60-day response), in July 2016 the Regents of the University of California voted to approve the Merced 2020 plan—an extremely ambitious capital plan to build new academic, residential, and student services space that will greatly enhance Merced's desirability and its ability to offer a broader range of academic and co-curricular programs. These buildings will begin coming on line in 2018—well within the enrollment period of students enrolling in Fall 2016. UC's commitment to providing excellent facilities and programs at UC Merced sends a powerful signal to potential students that Merced is an excellent academic choice.

  • Estimated Completion Date: Full implementation in 2020 with completion of UC Merced 2020 Project
  • Response Date: August 2016

California State Auditor's Assessment of 6-Month Status: No Action Taken

As we stated in our 60-day public assessment, our recommendation indicates that the university should amend its referral process to increase the likelihood that referred residents ultimately enroll. The university's response highlights actions that it took prior to the release of our audit report--actions that did not notably increase the enrollment rates of referred residents.

This recommendation will remain as no action taken until the university provides specific actions that it will implement to increase the enrollment of referred residents above the 1 to 2 percent rate experienced over the past four academic years.


60-Day Agency Response

The University shares the goal of finding means to increase the number of students currently admitted through the referral pool who ultimately enroll at UC. We already have programs in place to increase the enrollment rate of students admitted to UC Merced through this vehicle, including the campus's "Count Me In" campaign which targets referral students with information and encourages them to accept their referral pool offer. More important, UC Merced is embarking on an ambitious capital plan, Merced 2020, to build new academic, residential, and student services space that will greatly enhance Merced's desirability and its ability to offer a broader range of academic and co-curricular programs that attract the most talented California resident students. As a result, Merced will expand programs, hire new faculty, and increase enrollment over the next several years.

In addition, UC hopes that by increasing the number of students admitted to campuses they originally apply to, the number of students in the referral pool will decline. With increased State funding for enrollment, UC is adding 5,000 new California residents in Fall 2016. As a result, the proportion of California freshman applicants admitted to one of their campuses of choice has already increased from 56 percent to 63 percent and we expect the final admission rate for California residents to be even higher. We expect the number of students whose only offer of admission comes through referral to decline by several thousand.

  • Estimated Completion Date: Full implementation in 2020 with completion of UC Merced 2020 Project
  • Response Date: May 2016

California State Auditor's Assessment of 60-Day Status: No Action Taken

Our recommendation indicates that the university should amend its referral process to increase the likelihood that referred residents ultimately enroll. The university's response highlights actions that it took prior to the release of our audit report--actions that did not notably increase the enrollment rates of referred residents.

This recommendation will remain as no action taken until the university provides specific actions that it will implement to increase the enrollment of referred residents above the 1 to 2 percent rate experienced over the past four academic years.


All Recommendations in 2015-107

Agency responses received are posted verbatim.


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