Monday Morning Thoughts: UCD Reports Record Number of Applicants

By David M. Greenwald

We got a reprieve of sorts from the housing and vacancy crisis this year.  If anything, the shoe was on the other foot—vacancy rates were not too low.  But that is temporary.  At some point the pandemic will end—perhaps by the fall when vaccines are available to most students and faculty.

If you listened to our webinar on Friday—catch it here—one thing that students like ASUCD President Kyle Krueger and Vanguard at UC Davis Editor Julietta Bisharyan agree on, along with Co-Chair of the Faculty Association Jesse Drew, distance learning was forced on everyone, the students want to get back to campus, the faculty do not like it, and everyone is hoping for a return.

Are there aspects of distance learning that they may want to push forward?  Yes.  But overall, it is not the model that they see of the future.  Especially the huge number of students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)—they want to get back to their labs in person.

In the meantime, UC Davis reported late last week that they have attracted “a record 105,850 applicants seeking to enter as freshman and transfer students in fall 2021 when the campus plans to resume mostly in-person instruction.”

You can focus on the first part of that sentence—record applicants.  They cite a figure that is 11.7 percent higher than the previous record—last year’s 94,763.

Or you can as I do, focus on the second part—”resume mostly in-person instruction.”

UC Davis and Healthy Davis Together deserve praise here.  There was not a huge outbreak of COVID.  Students were mostly responsible.  You did not see the horror stories from Notre Dame or perhaps North Carolina with large student gatherings and super-spreader events.  In fact, community spread was lower on campus than in the communityùand the community of Davis has done very well.

Back on December 18, the campus announced “it was planning to return to in-person instruction for fall with decision-making based on then-current public health guidance.”

On January 11, “the University of California announced that it is planning for in-person instruction across all of its 10 campuses.”

All signs, therefore, point to the fact that we are headed back to where we were in 2019-20.  Yes, we have seen Sterling Apartments open and Lincoln40 may open by the fall, but Nishi won’t come online for awhile.  The university will have additional housing coming online as well.  That should help to alleviate some of the worst shortages of housing.

But the end of the housing crunch figures to be a momentary blip, probably even shorter than it was during the Great Recession—which slowed housing pressures for several years.

While telecommuting is changing the workplace and commutes—probably for the better—and might help to alleviate traffic congestion and possibly even some GHG emissions, education for the most part found itself constrained rather than empowered by the move.

The college experience is more than simply learning some facts.  That goes doubly at a university which excels in the STEM area and hands-on learning in labs.  But a huge part of the college experience is getting out of one’s home, out of one’s community, networking and the total experience.

College has worked better on computer than K-12 for sure, but most college students are itching to get back onto campus.  Yes, there are cost factors, but it’s an investment and, as we noted in previous columns, college education greatly increases one’s earning potential—even with the short term costs and the longer term debt of student loans.

UC Davis in their release drilled down into the applicants.  California residents accounted for about 70 percent of all freshman applicants.

And the pool is increasingly diverse, as “36.7 percent are from historically underrepresented groups (African American, American Indian, Chicano/Latino and Pacific Islander).”

The data show increases of

  • 20.6 percent among African American applicants
  • 11.8 percent among Chicano/Latino applicants
  • 22 percent among Pacific Islanders
  • 7.9 percent among American Indians

Furthermore, among the transfer students from California community colleges, “34.5 percent are from historically underrepresented groups.”

According to the release: “There were gains of 5 percent among African American applicants and 5.2 percent among Chicano/Latino applicants. Applicants [increased] by 22.1 percent among American Indians and 13.6 percent among Pacific Islanders.

“Among California freshman and California Community College transfer applicants, 41 percent are from low-income families, and 42 percent would be in the first generation of their family to graduate from a four-year college.”

This jibes with the report that we discussed last week—the University of California is a driver of opportunity for historically disadvantaged and underrepresented populations.

Locally, all of this means a return, however, to housing issues on the forefront of local discussion.  This past year, with students staying away, concerns were about too much rather than too little vacancy.  People kept wondering if this would mark a permanent shift.

Perhaps too soon to tell on that, but the early answer appears to be no.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Don Shor

    This is great news for the local businesses, especially restaurants, if they can just hold on for a few more months.

    And I think we can put to rest the notion that the pandemic will have lasting impact on the Davis housing market.

  2. Ron Glick

    “UC Davis and Healthy Davis Together deserve praise here.  There was not a huge outbreak of COVID.  Students were mostly responsible.”


    36 % of Davis cases are in the 18-25 year old cohort. I go walking and see young people out without masks on. I cross the street.

    1. Richard_McCann

      The New York Times wrote a long article about how the UCD program is working. The infection rate in Davis is only 40% of the rate for the rest of the county, which appears to be a significant success.

      1. Alan Miller

        Actually, I consider that a failure.  Davis already had low Covid-19 rates.   The resources of the program should be directed more equitably throughout the County where rates are much higher, to flag more positives.

        I mean great for Davis, yeah, but is that really how we should be distributing testing resources?

      2. Ron Glick

        That is true Richard but the 18-25 cohort, the age of most undergrads, is higher than in other parts of the County. The case rate for the 18-25 cohort in the county is only 16%. So for David to praise students as mostly responsible is being awfully generous.

        Of course at these rents we should expect high transmission rates due to overcrowding.

  3. Don Gibson

    Yes, we have seen Sterling Apartments open and Lincoln40 may open by the fall, but Nishi won’t come online for awhile.

    I believe there should be serious doubt if the Nishi project ever gets built. After approval on the ballot in June 2018, two an a half years later no shovels in the ground and the building permits haven’t been pulled. The CEQA lawsuit by Susan Rainier and Colin Walsh didn’t get dismissed until late 2019. Building costs only continue to go up in the region for both materials and labor. I am very concerned that the high costs of the project such as the lawsuit, a rail underpass or overpass, and changing market have made the project no longer fiscally viable. And lastly if it isn’t viable, the project can not be significantly amended due to Measure J/R/D. To even get to another vote could cost a half a million just to amend the proposal.

    If it doesn’t get built, it would have been equal to the number of beds to all of the other recently approved and being built multi family projects such as L40, Sterling, Davis Live, and University Mall.

      1. Mark West

        “Nishi project is on track.”

        Based on information or wishful thinking?

        I will believe the project is moving forward when UP starts construction of the shoofly track.

        1. Alan Miller

          Based on information.

          That response wouldn’t have passed Mrs. Johnson’s requirements for my 4th grade class report bibliography.  But what the heck, it’s a blog.

          1. Don Shor

            That response wouldn’t have passed Mrs. Johnson’s requirements for my 4th grade class report bibliography.

            I was only given two choices.

    1. Eileen Samitz


      Regarding your statement : “If it doesn’t get built, it would have been equal to the number of beds to all of the other recently approved and being built multi family projects such as L40, Sterling, Davis Live, and University Mall.”

      This statement is not really accurate, since you did not include Plaza 2555.  The Plaza 2555 project approved in south Davis with 55% 3-bedroom apartments and 40% 2-bedroom apartments (and no market rate one-bedroom apartments or studios), is clearly targeting students. The developers admitted this when first applying. So, that adds at least 499 more beds as stated in the City’s Staff final Plaza Staff report. So at least 5,281 student beds have been approved in the City of Davis. Therefore, even without Nishi, 3,081 student beds would be produced compared to 2,200 beds at Nishi.

      However, rather than you continuing to try to imply that more student housing is needed to be built in Davis, what is the update of progress from the 2018 UCD task force report that you helped developed for UCD to address the need for more affordable housing on campus?

      Since you took a leading role in this task force, thanks if you can provide feedback on what actions that you or others advocating for more student housing have taken to get UCD to produce more affordable student housing on-campus.

      Also, if you can also give feedback on why Orchard Park, the former large graduate student complex demolished over 6 years again, is still a vacant development site (i.e., on Russell, near Hwy 113)? What progress has been made on it by UCD? UCD was originally proposing very low-density apartments, compared to Davis which has approved high-density 7-story student housing. Is there any progress on this density issue to get at least 6-7 stories there as well? Also, what is the plan for the site, and when will it be built? Have you met with UCD on this recently and if so, what was the update?

      Also, here are just a few excerpts from the task force 2018 document “Turning the Curve on Affordable UCD Student Housing” that you helped develop with other task force members including UCD administration members:
      From: Turning the Curve on Affordable UCD Student Housing
      1) “Limit future enrollment increases. The time has come for an era of much slower, incremental growth in the student population, enabling the campus to catch up with infrastructure needs, including housing, classroom space, and student support services.”
                  2) “Increase the campus housing supply by building more units. We welcome the   Chancellor’s recent decision to increase the target of new housing units to be built on-campus to include 9,050 beds, but our analysis of the available data suggests that number needs to be higher in order to reverse the trend toward increasingly unaffordable housing.”
                  3)“Identify funds to support student housing…” including philanthropic sources…  like USC which raises millions in private donations to help fund student housing in USC Village.
                  4) “Design for Affordability and Prioritize Affordable Designs in New Campus Housing.”
      Thanks, if you can share any updates including what actions or meetings have occurred to implement these UCD task force objectives, particularly since so much time and effort went into developing the document by you, and others including the UCD administration.

  4. Ron Glick

    Over 20 years later not one unit of housing has been completed since Measure J passed. It has been a great success at creating scarcity, shortage and moving the needle on price to the benefit of existing property owners. For students, not so much.

  5. Eileen Samitz


    Your comment is simply not true. Of course housing has been built since Measure J was approved.  Between 2005 and 2017  1,037 permits were issued by the City of Davis. And this does not even include housing built between 2000 and 2005, or since 2017 until now. Some more recent projects include Creekside Apartments, the Grande project, Paso Fino, more units at the Cannery, Bretton Woods and over 5,200 student beds approved (including Sterling which is built).

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