When grad student Ankur Kamthe first set foot on the UC Merced campus 6 years ago, he said the college was quiet. "At that time, when I started teaching, class sizes were 20-30 students."
Since then - he says attendance has skyrocketed. Nearly doubling, if not tripling to around 50-60 students - in the same course. Others we talked with - have also taken notice to the university's growing population.
"That's definitely been more obvious recently," said Max Larner. "This past semester was probably the most I've seen on campus. Sometimes there's not even space in the library."
According to new numbers released this week - UC Merced received more than 15-thousand undergraduate applications for fall 2012. That's up from about 13-thousand-7-hundred from the year before.
Freshman applications also went up by more than 11-percent. And UC Merced is the only campus in the entire UC system to see a rise in transfer students - an overwhelming majority of them coming from California community colleges.
J. Michael Thompson said, "I think it's the growing understanding of the quality of education at UC Merced that has caused a tremendous increase in the number of applicants as well as the number of students who have decided to join us."
Assistant Vice Chancellor J. Michael Thompson believes the increased interest has to do with the strength of programs like natural science and engineering -- as well as -- campus outreach and word of mouth.
While he's encouraged by the new numbers - he says - he doesn't want to grow too big too fast. Instead the campus will moderate enrollment next year to keep pace with the construction of new classrooms, laboratories and housing - currently being built.