UC Merced starts new year with record enrollment

FRESNO, Calif.

The UC system's newest campus began its eighth academic year with record enrollment. On Thursday, more than 5,000 students returned to campus, including the University's largest freshman class and graduate program since it first opened in 2005.

"I have a new class called computer network and security and I have no clue what to expect because it's a brand new class, brand new teacher," said student Jeffrey Day.

Over the summer, the University hired 26 new faculty members to accommodate the growing student population.

"We're very excited to start the school year, we expect 5600 students to be enrolled this year, our largest number of freshman around 1400 and our largest graduate student group of 300 students here this fall," said Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Jane Lawrence.

Lawrence says this year the freshman class is the most diverse with Hispanic students alone representing 47% of the incoming class.

"We have an extremely diverse population. Students are from all over California, all income groups, a lot of first generation students and every kind of racial and ethnic background, she said.

The campus expects to reach 10,000 students in the next 8 to 10 years, therefore a number of construction projects are now underway. Right now crews are busy building additional student housing as well as a second science and engineering building.

Despite the obvious growth, officials say the campus hasn't lost its community feel and class room sizes still remain small.

Students like Timothy Chen said it's the campus's small intimate setting that attracted him to the University last year.

"There's a large sense of community because you get to see a lot of people because the class sizes are small and when you get into discussions and labs you get to know the people there," said Chen.

One more sign of growth and something the students are looking forward to, is the opening of the new student activities and athletic center scheduled to open for the first time Friday morning.

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