National Institute on Aging

A Significant Increase in the Number of Black Applicants to the University of California

In the November 2020 election, voters in California overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to reinstate race-sensitive admissions at public colleges and universities in the state. A previous referendum in 1996 outlawed the consideration of race in admission decisions. But, the defeat of the measure has not dampened the interest of Black students from attending the University of California.

The University of California system has released data on the number of applications it has received for this coming fall’s entering class. Systemwide, 128,128 California residents applied to one of the university’s nine undergraduate campuses for the class that will enter in the fall of 2021. This is up by 13 percent from a year ago. (Note: Applications for admission in 2020 were submitted prior to the onset of the global pandemic.)

Of the 128,128 California students who applied to the university system in 2021, 8,405 are African Americans. Thus, African Americans are 6.6 percent of all in-state applicants to the University of California. The number of Black applicants is up 21.8 percent from a year ago. Blacks make up about 7 percent of the California population.

Black applicants to the flagship Berkeley campus are up by more than 35 percent from a year ago, while overall applicants to Berkley are up by 23.8 percent. At the University of California, Los Angeles, the number of Black applicants surged by nearly 37 percent.

The other seven undergraduate campuses also showed an increase in Black applicants but these gains were far smaller than those at Berkeley and UCLA.

One reason for the surge appears to be the moratorium on the requirement to submit standardized test scores. Black students with high grade point averages but who did not have high scores on the SAT or ACT may have been reluctant in years past to apply to the most prestigious campuses in the system. But with test scores not required, many Black students may have decided to apply for admission to the most prestigious campuses of the system.


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