Exploring Enrollment

Analyzing trends in 20 years of UCLA Registrar data

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Future Trends and Predictions

It seems almost certain that UCLA's enrollment numbers will continue to climb in the following 20 years. UC regents have proposed enrolling thousands of additional students at UC campuses for the 2020-2021 school year. Despite a recent drop in the number of freshmen applications over the past two years, UCLA continues to receive over 100,000 freshmen applications. In fact, UCLA is currently in the third-largest period of growth in the history of the university – undergraduate enrollment is up 20% from where it was 10 years ago. In response to the rate of growth, the university has proposed capping undergraduate growth to 1% in the following years.

As enrollment rates have increased, the number of sections have also continued to steadily increase in response. In Fall 2008, there were 9.53 students for every section offered by the university. In Fall 2018, there were 9.08 students for every section. Interestingly, the student:section ratio is higher during 2000–2004.

Enrollment data obtained from UCLA Office of Academic Planning and Budget.

A possible explanation for this is the fact that UCLA's freshman yield rate was much higher during the early 2000s than it was during the 2010s.

Admissions data obtained from UCLA Office of Academic Planning and Budget.

What remains to be seen is there is a tipping point at which the university cannot handle additional students. There are many a few different factors at play: classroom space, student housing, and hiring enough faculty members, TAs, and graders. Over the next 10 years, it's almost certain UCLA will attempt to build and hire to handle more students. What remains to be seen is how they do that.

Under Construction, Like Always

Most professors and departments are open to expanding class sizes, but are limited by the sizes of classrooms they have access to. After the completion of the new Engineering VI building, the enrollment capacity of Computer Science 180: "Introduction to Algorithms and Complexity" jumped by 83 seats, from 167 to 250.

"It was a question of room size," Richard Korf, the vice chair of undergraduate studies for the Computer Science department told me in an interview1 for the Daily Bruin. "That's what's determining the size of that class."

As UCLA continues to enroll more students, administrators will likely need to oversee the construction of new classrooms, as well as the renovation of existing classrooms.

Enforce Prime Time

In 2016, then-Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott Waugh created a standing committee comprised of students, faculty, and administrators to advise the university on how best to utilize classroom space. The newly-formed Classroom Advisory Committee created a report in just under a year with 31 recommendations that would better prepare UCLA for a more crowded future. Recommendation 2e was to enforce the Prime Time restrictions of Policy 870, to "achieve a better temporal distribution of classroom use".

Take, for example, Moore 100 – the largest general assignment classroom. In Winter 2020, while it held some of UCLA's largest classes, it also went empty or underutilized a lot of the time – notably early in the morning, in the evening, or Friday.

Repurposing space

UCLA might have to look towards existing spaces to see if they could be repurposed. The Classroom Advisory Committee found that there are many storage spaces on campus are surprisingly big and could potentially be converted into classrooms.

Space on the Hill is also a possible location for future classes. There's precedent for this – many courses that are part of the freshmen Cluster Program are held in De Neve. However, space on the Hill is managed by UCLA Housing, must be available for all 10 weeks of instruction, and make take longer than the recommended 10 minutes of travel time allocated to classes.

Although this will likely never happen, an extremely space-strapped UCLA could also potentially end the distinctions between departmental and general assignment space. According to UCLA Administrative Policy 880, ultimate ownership of all UCLA facilities belongs the UC Regents and room allocation ultimately is up to the Chancellor. If he wanted to, Gene Block could ensure that large rooms like Schoenberg Hall or even Royce Hall2 opened up to classes numbering 500+ students.

Online classrooms

Another possible way the university could handle additional students is through online courses.

In addition to fully online courses, which have seen significant growth since their introduction in 2012, it's likely that more courses will start to be BruinCast in an attempt to reduce physical attendance. UC Berkeley has been able to scale their introductory computer science course to almost 2,000 students by taking advantage of the fact that most students prefer to watch lectures online that physically attend.

  1. The article, "Class sizes stretch capabilities of campus" was published April 30, 2019 in print but not online. I've archived a copy here. (Page 1, Page 2)
  2. Angela Davis notably once taught a course of over 2,000 students in Royce Hall. In more recent times, the largest class offered by the university was Peter Sellars' Art as Moral Action course in Winter 2000. Sellars told me over email that the class was split into sections or held outside in order to accommodate the number of enrolled students. In future offerings, the course's capacity was reduced due to the logistical burden.