Experts in education say that the recent record number of applications to the University of California system in 2022 -- the highest in its history of 154 years -- indicates progress in increasing student representation and addressing the need for more Latino students to enroll.
According to a University of California report, Chicano and Latino students accounted for 38.1 percent of all freshman applicants, an increase of 4.1 percent over the previous year.
The number of applications from Black students rose by 2.8 percent, while that from Asian American students rose by 5.8 percent.
"It's improving, but there's still a lot to do," stated Lisa Garcia Bedolla a vice provost at the University of California Berkeley for graduate studies and a professor at the Graduate School of Education.
UC praised the system's increased outreach efforts for boosting applications in its report.
Bedolla stated that Berkeley's campus has reached out to students from underserved areas of California, such as the Central Valley and Northern California, through virtual meetings and campus tours.
Bedolla stated that "we've been more deliberate about reaching out to certain areas of the state where applicants aren't coming," but added, "which tends to be the most varied."
Bedolla stated that the removal of the SAT/ACT requirements from the application process has also boosted applicant numbers.
In May 2020, the UC system unanimously voted to suspend the SAT and ACT standardized exams through 2024. It also plans to eliminate them from California students' hands by 2025.
She said, "I believe that matters in terms of students feeling like they have something to offer,"
UC stated that California freshman applications rose by 3.3 percent compared with last year, and by 16.8 per cent compared to fall 2020 during the first year after the coronavirus pandemic.
The increase in socioeconomic diversity of applicants was also evident. California Community Colleges received 56 percent more applications from families with low incomes, while 46 percent more California freshman applicants came from low-income households.
According to the report, enrollment at the state's community college has dropped dramatically since 2020 due to the pandemic.
Latinos account for nearly half of all Covid-19 confirmed cases in California (47.8%) and 44.11% of all confirmed deaths . Bedolla stated that the pandemic has created additional stressors for families, economic, and health.
She said that if someone is already economically vulnerable and then add on the pandemic, it's much more difficult to have a residential four year university experience if they are required to support their family.
"Our challenge last season wasn't admissions. She said that it was yield, which refers to the percentage of students who enrol in and attend college after being accepted.
An analysis done by the San Francisco Chronicle shows that while Latinos accounted for almost half of Californians aged 18-24 -- 49 percent -- they accounted 25 percent of the 2021 UC freshman class.
Tolani Britton is an assistant professor at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Education. She stressed the importance of outreach in the application process, but also in college enrollment and completion.
Britton stated, "It also requires institutions to look for these students to let them be aware of the opportunities." "And then, once they arrive at campus, to ensure that campuses support them, not only to higher education but through higher education."