Asians beat out whites for freshmen spots at UC

By Lisa M. Krieger and Lisa Fernandez KRT

Californians of Asian descent won more spots in this fall’s freshman class at the University of California than any other ethnic group, edging out white students for the first time.

The milestone follows a steady climb among Asians in the state’s leading public university system. Asians account for 36 percent of California residents admitted to study at UC schools, though they make up only 14 percent of seniors projected to graduate from the state’s public high schools.

By comparison, white students comprised 35.6 percent of those accepted; Latinos, 17.6 percent; African-Americans, 3.4 percent; and American Indians, 0.6 percent.

The increase in students of Asian descent shows up on campus in what some students proudly call “an Asian feeling” – but some say it also can translate into tension among students competing for desired spots in UC’s highly regarded schools, not to mention grades in classes. And it reflects a mix of factors, including strong performance in high school and the university system’s outreach to poorer students, including many new immigrants from Asia.

College counselors say Asian parents tend to focus on UC because it’s affordable, prestigious and offers high value for the cost. Asian students also applied to UC schools at higher rates than other students and are more likely to enroll if admitted, officials said.

“Culturally, there is a huge emphasis on education in the Asian community. The kids work very hard, academically,” said Purvi Mody, co-owner of Insight Education college counseling in Cupertino. “And the UCs offer brand-name recognition.

“Generally speaking, kids from other ethnic cultures tend to be more willing to move away from home and be open-minded about schools that may be very far away,” she added.

Asian students are also more likely than those from other ethnic groups, including whites, to have a parent with a college education, said economist Deborah Reed of the Public Policy Institute of California.

“It correlates with books and computers in the home – and a certain expectation about going to college, as well as how to prepare and apply to college,” Reed said.

Students say they feel the growing Asian presence. “If you look around the room and count the people, a lot are Asian,” said Insiyah Nomanbhoy, 19, of Cupertino, who is a freshman at UCLA.

Nomanbhoy, whose father is from Pakistan and mother is from Sri Lanka, graduated from Castilleja High School, a private all-girls school in Palo Alto. She applied to five UC schools as well as some private ones, including Stanford University, which she didn’t get into.