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UC Merced Enrollment Passes 9,000 — a New High — Despite National Decline

September 25, 2020
UC Merced students
The UC Merced campus is not as bustling as it was in this pre-pandemic image, but enrollment has reached a new high.

UC Merced rose into the top 100 of the U.S. News & World Report rankings of National Universities earlier this month, and the university already has another milestone to celebrate.

According to numbers released today (Sept. 24), UC Merced’s total student enrollment has surpassed 9,000 for the first time. The 9,018 students enrolled for the Fall 2020 semester — which is being administered through remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic — include more than 8,276 undergraduate students and 742 graduate students.

Both figures are the highest in UC Merced’s history. Graduate students now make up 8.2 percent of total enrollment, also a new highwater mark for the university. The growth comes during a time when enrollment is trending downward across the nation.

The continued growth of our student population — especially in light of the pandemic we’re all facing — is truly remarkable and should make everyone associated with the university proud to be a Bobcat,” Chancellor Juan Sánchez-Muñoz said. “The success of our students and alumni is a testament to the incredible work of our exceptional faculty and staff over the years who have helped to build this great institution.”

The continued growth of our student population — especially in light of the pandemic we’re all facing — is truly remarkable and should make everyone associated with the university proud to be a Bobcat.

Juan Sánchez Muñoz

The recently completed Merced 2020 Project has provided much-needed physical space for teaching, research, student housing, athletics and student life, and comfortably supports the enrollment of up to 10,000 students.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly hard on low-income and underrepresented groups. Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Charles Nies said this makes the enrollment growth at UC Merced — a campus where three in four students are first-generation and more than 60 percent are eligible for Pell grants — all the more impressive.

“UC Merced is known as a campus where students feel supported and welcomed. They feel like they belong,” Nies said. “Our staff and faculty deserve so much credit for the countless hours they’ve worked to ensure our students continue to have that experience and feel that support, even if they are physically remote.”

The historic enrollment comes on the heels of a series of national rankings recognizing UC Merced as one of the best universities in the United States.

U.S. News & World Report placed UC Merced in the top 100 universities in the United States — 40th among all public institutions. Times Higher Education ranked it as the No. 3 “young university” in the country. Money Magazine also placed the university in the top 100, as did Washington Monthly. Money ranked the institution in the top 20 nationally for creating social mobility for students, and U.S. News called it the top public university for outperforming predicted graduation rates and the fifth overall for social mobility

Muñoz said that while UC Merced is proud of the milestones it has reached in such a short time, the best is yet to come. The university is in the midst of academic and strategic planning processes that will put it on a path to becoming an R1 institution, leading to further achievements in academics, research, community engagement and student success in the coming decade and beyond.

“We are not slowing down,” Muñoz said. “We celebrate this milestone, and we honor those who helped make it possible, but we have a responsibility to keep pressing on. The Central Valley needs UC Merced to continue to grow and thrive, as do the UC system, the state, the nation and the world.”