UC Berkeley finds a workaround to mandated enrollment freeze

By offering remote learning and a delayed enrollment option, Cal won’t need to cut freshmen and transfer admission.

By enrolling some students online and juggling who can show up on campus in the fall, Cal has found a workaround to a mandated enrollment freeze. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

UC Berkeley will be able to offer admission to almost the same number of freshman and transfer students under the court-imposed enrollment cap as it did this year by enrolling some students online and juggling who can show up on campus in the fall, it announced Friday, a day after the California Supreme Court denied the university’s request to lift the enrollment freeze.

Students will get letters stating whether they’re admitted for fall in-person learning, fall remote learning or in-person learning delayed until January 2023.

UC Berkeley, however, will send out fewer admission letters for graduate students, reducing the number enrolled by about 400, said Dan Mogulof, assistant vice chancellor for communications and public affairs. The cuts will come mostly from people applying to UC Berkeley’s graduate professional schools, including the Haas School of Business, Berkeley Law and Berkeley Engineering.

UC Berkeley had previously announced it would have to turn away up to 5,100 applicants to comply with a court order to freeze enrollment at 2020-21 levels. The dramatic downward revision of the number of applicants it will have to turn away came after Cal performed a careful examination of its enrollment plan, Mogulof said.

UC Berkeley is aiming to enroll 6,334 California residents and approximately 641 out-of-state students for the fall, according to a statement. (Over the course of the entire 2022-23 year, Cal will enroll about 9,100, said Mogulof). But to keep the numbers on campus low enough to comply with the court order, only 4,370 California resident freshmen and 509 out-of-state students will be permitted to set foot on campus. The others will be asked to attend remotely the first semester or to delay starting school until January 2023. About 90% of the new students will be from California, according to the university.

Specifically, UC Berkeley believes it can lessen the impact of the freeze by:

  • Enrolling more than 1,000 newly admitted students in virtual classes for the fall semester. After that they can come to campus.
  • Delaying the admittance of approximately 650 transfer students from the fall of 2022 to Jan. 2023.
  • Denying admission to more than 400 students, mostly graduate students, who would otherwise have been admitted except for the enrollment cap.

UC Berkeley said approximately 200 currently enrolled students will be off-campus in the fall at programs like Cal in the Capitol in Sacramento and UCDC in Washington DC. That will free up some space. UC Berkeley will also encourage students who are taking longer than four or five years to graduate to hurry up and complete their degrees, according to the statement.

On Feb. 14, after the California Court of Appeal denied UC Berkeley’s application for a stay of a lower court’s ruling to cap enrollment, officials said the university would make 5,100 fewer offers to reduce the incoming fall 2022 class by 3,050 students. More students are offered spots than accept, a concept known as the yield.

Now UC Berkeley says it only must reduce total in-person fall enrollment by 2,629 students. Cal officials cautioned that the numbers are approximate.

“The judgment applies only to students physically present on the Berkeley campus,” according to the Cal statement. “As a result, the focus of our new mitigation strategy is to provide as many California undergraduate students as possible with an offer of fall in-person admission and offer the remaining selected undergraduate students the opportunity to take classes fully remotely for the first semester and/or delay their enrollment by one semester. Every December many students graduate at the end of fall semester, freeing up in-person enrollment space during the spring semester that starts in January.”

“With all of our mitigation strategies in place, the number of freshman and transfer students receiving offers is expected to be similar to our numbers that were in place before the court-ordered reduction in enrollment…therefore undergrad admissions offers will be very close to what was originally planned,” university officials said in a statement.

UC Berkeley students relax on campus on March 1, 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

The news that fewer students would be affected by the enrollment freeze was so new that the city council members Berkeleyside contacted had not heard about it.

“The entire council was concerned about the ripple effects (of the enrollment cap) not only in Berkeley but in the state of California,” said Councilmember Lori Droste. “Any indication that fewer students will be affected is a positive. But any enrollment cut is not a good thing.”

UC Berkeley must send out acceptance decisions by March 24. A record number of students, more than 128,100, applied for acceptance to the fall 2022 freshman class. That is a 13% increase over last year’s record-breaking number, according to the university.

UC Berkeley will keep a longer than normal waiting list for admission in case the legislature takes action on the enrollment issue, according to the statement.

Alameda County Judge Brad Seligman ordered UC Berkeley in August to freeze its enrollment at its 2020-21 levels, approximately 42,347 students. Currently, 45,057 are enrolled.

Seligman ordered the cap as part of a lawsuit brought by Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods against UC Berkeley. Save Berkeley Neighborhoods has said Cal has not provided enough housing for students, so they are moving into residential neighborhoods, increasing noise, congestion and trash and pushing out low-income residents.

The neighborhood group sued the university in 2019, contending it did not comply with environmental laws when it did a supplemental environmental impact report to examine a more than 30% jump in enrollment from 2005 to 2019. Cal had examined the impacts of the increase on the campus, but not on the city of Berkeley. It had done the supplemental EIR as part of an EIR to examine the impacts of building a new facility for the Goldman School of Public Policy as well as a housing complex for professors on Hearst Avenue.

Frances Dinkelspiel is co-founder and executive editor of Cityside. Email: frances@citysidejournalism.org.