UC Merced plans on expansion amid record enrollment

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At the start of its 12th academic year, UC Merced is welcoming more than 7,000 students. Its highest enrollment yet. (KFSN)

Wednesday marked the first day of school for thousands of students with UC Merced started its academic year with record enrollment.

At the start of its 12th academic year, UC Merced is welcoming more than 7,000 students. Its highest enrollment yet.

"We have at least 16 new faculty members so were bringing on new faculty members that will continue to increase as we plan to accommodate those extra thousands of students that were going to be bringing on." said Brenda Ortiz with university communications.

For the first time, students are attending class in the university's newest academic building. And the growth doesn't stop at student population, by 2020 the campus size is expected to double.

If all goes according to plan, the university's largest incoming class of 2,000 will see the "Merced 20-20" construction from start to finish.

"It'll be good growing with the school seeing the campus changing and it's exciting," freshman Kimberly Chavez said.

"I don't know, I'm excited," sophomore Henry White said. "I'd like to see it happen, see how fast that goes."

"Our students will have the opportunity to experience that collegiate life and all the fun things as well as the wonderful opportunity to get their education," Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Charles Nies said.

Nies, who's been with the school for more than a decade, said the $1.3 billion project will add new classrooms, office space, research labs, more student amenities and student housing.

Set to break ground this October, the plan is to have the first wave of buildings complete by 2018.

"And then every year for the next couple years we'll continue to open different parts of until 2020 when we fully open up all of that space," Nies said.

Plenary projects of Merced will continue its contract with the school even after construction to maintain the new facilities. In addition to enhancing student life, school officials are thrilled with the opportunity and local collaboration the project brings.

"We're excited it will bring a lot of jobs to the region as well as they're estimating close to $1.9 billion in revenue to this part of the Valley just as we go through the construction phase," Nies said.

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