UC San Diego’s enrollment unexpectedly soars past 40,000 for first time

Before the pandemic, the UC San Diego campus had about 39,000 students. That figure now exceeds 40,000.
Before the pandemic, the UC San Diego campus had about 39,000 students. That figure now exceeds 40,000.

Campus officials the thought head count might slip due to the coronavirus.

UC San Diego’s fall enrollment unexpectedly jumped by 840 students, pushing the campus past the 40,000 mark for the first time and close to the university’s projected capacity.

Campus officials thought enrollment might drop by 800 or so due to the effect of the coronavirus, which has helped cut undergraduate numbers nationwide by 4 percent, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

But UCSD — which just began its 60th year — hit the 40,473 mark, school officials said. The campus enrolled a record 31,842 undergraduates — 1,048 more than it had in fall 2019. And graduate student enrollment came in at 8,631, a small dip over last year.

Most students are taking the majority of their classes online, including the roughly 10,000 who are living in campus housing. They’re staying in La Jolla to get a semblance of college life, even though everyone must wear masks and practice social distancing.

Many students also need housing because they’re far from home. UCSD has one of the largest international student populations in the United States.

The latest surge in growth means UCSD is now fewer than 2,000 students from hitting its capacity of 42,400, as laid out in a long-range plan adopted two years ago. The university wasn’t expected to reach that number until 2035.

The capacity number will likely be adjusted upward. Even amid a pandemic, UCSD is in a construction boom that will add about 5,000 beds to campus housing, which already can handle more than 17,000 students.

It is unclear how the enrollment situation at UCSD compares with the nine other undergraduate campuses in the University of California system. It has yet to release comprehensive data or report whether there has been a major decline in foreign students, who pay twice the tuition of California residents. ◆