Stanford may have garnered the headlines by welcoming President Clinton's daughter to college, but Cal's freshmen class might well contain a future president or two.
As in recent years, the class is one of the strongest ever academically. Once again, incoming students exceeded past incoming classes in average SAT scores and grade point averages, with an average SAT score of more than 1,300 points and a mean high school grade-point-average of 4.1.
Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl, who greeted students and their parents on move-in day in August and has welcomed them in dozens of receptions during the first weeks of the school year, has said how impressed he is with the caliber of Cal's students.
"They are very bright, and very serious about their academic goals," he said. "It's also apparent that they have a strong sense of service."
Berdahl also noted that Cal represents a tough adjustment for many incoming students.
"They are used to being the very best in their high school classes, and now they are in an environment where they're surrounded by classmates who also were the best," he said. "Adapting to that reality can be a challenge, but it is also what makes a UC Berkeley education so exceptional."
In all, the campus welcomed about 21,500 undergraduates and 8,500 graduate students in late August. New frosh number 3,520, and new transfer students number 1,730.
For the first time since the years during World War II, there were more women (50.7 percent) than men among freshmen and transfer students.
"This reflects a national trend in higher education," said Gregg Thomson, director of the Office of Student Research.
"I think the trend will continue," he added, noting that small liberal arts colleges have shown a decisive trend toward more women for several years.
New and returning California residents were greeted with
good news about student fees which were again frozen, remaining at the 1995-96 level of $4,354 for the year, including health insurance.
Cal's undergraduate out-of-state tuition is now $13,338, an increase of $590 from last year.
The financial aid picture also improved, with the campus' successful efforts to raise scholarship money from private donations, and a $300 increase in the amount of federal Pell Grants.
The ethnic makeup of the freshman class changed little over last year: 40.4 percent Asian-American, 28.2 percent White, 11.2 percent Chicano, 7.3 percent African-American, 2.5 percent foreign, 2.3 percent Latino, an 0.7 percent Native American.
This is expected to change next year as affirmative action can no longer be used as a criterion in selecting entering freshmen and graduate students, but Berdahl and others feel that diversity and excellence go hand-in-hand at Cal.
"While the purpose of our actions must be to continue to develop a student body that reflects the brilliant diversity of our state and nation, we are required to change our means of doing so," he said.
"We are reviewing our policies to assure that we are doing all we can within UC policy and state law to achieve a diverse and excellent student body."
The excellence of Cal's undergraduates also is reflected in climbing graduation rates. The four-year graduation rate has reached unprecedented heights-up 62 percent in the last decade.
The latest numbers show that 47.5 percent of students who entered UC Berkeley in fall 1992 as freshmen graduated four years later, compared to only 29.3 percent less than a decade ago. The six-year graduation rate has increased from 67.9 to 80.3 percent. And about 85 percent of the freshmen and transfer students entering Cal this year are expected to graduate within six years.
When asked what factors contribute to the accelerating graduation rates, student advisors cite a booming job market, past increases in UC fees, a greater student focus on career goals, and improvements in undergraduate student support and technology.
In the engineering field, companies are offering undergraduates "signing bonuses" to come aboard for the first time ever.
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