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Priority enrollment numbers to drop

By Anna Andersen

March 31, 2009 10:12 p.m.

The Undergraduate Council of the Academic Senate voted unanimously to drastically reduce priority enrollment numbers, effective fall 2009.

Last winter quarter, 8,300 students ““ one-third of the undergraduate student body ““ had priority enrollment, said Penny Hein-Unruh, assistant vice provost of academic counseling. This number will be reduced to 1,500 students starting with enrollment for fall 2009.

Those groups previously eligible for priority enrollment include honors students (2,600 of whom had priority last quarter), 1,300 Academic Advancement Program students, 2,100 General Education Cluster students, 2,100 ROTC students and a few small groups, Hein-Unruh said.

The four groups retaining priority are student athletes, about 700 in number, Regents Scholars, numbering 300, students served by the UCLA Office for Students with Disabilities, numbering 400, and veterans, numbering 100, Hein-Unruh said.

There was rationale behind allowing these groups to retain priority.

Athletes require special circumstances to accommodate for travel and practice, which limit the time frame in which they can take classes. The Regents Scholars priority enrollment is written in the Academic Senate guidelines. Students with disabilities registered by the Office for Students with Disabilities number 1,500, but the 400 with priority often require special planning. Lastly, a recently passed state law mandates veterans receive priority enrollment, Hein-Unruh said.

Students with priority had grown beyond what was reasonable, Hein-Unruh said, adding that she doesn’t think this decision will impact the number of students enrolling in the honors program.

The priority system originated in 1965, starting with 500 students, but over the years various groups were added and the numbers grew to 3,700 by 1990. That year, a task force eliminated groups, reducing the number to 1,500, Hein-Unruh said.

Nineteen years later, the number of priority students is again going to be brought down to 1,500.

Priority was originally supposed to be for a select group of students unless it started to impact non-priority students, Hein-Unruh said.

Enrollment at UCLA is organized by a two-pass system “to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to enroll in required pre-major, major and GE courses and to graduate,” according to the Registrar’s Office Web site.

During each pass, students sign up for classes based on their class standing, starting with seniors who have taken at least 160 units and ending with freshmen who have taken less than 45 units, according to the Registrar’s Office Web site.

However, the trump card is the priority pass, which enables certain students to register for their first 10 units before the scheduled first pass.

Last quarter, a senior with more than 160 units was registering after one-third of the undergraduate student body. Now, with these enrollment changes, students with more units will have greater enrollment priority.

“We think it will be more fair for all students,” Hein-Unruh said.

Even students with priority were getting closed out of classes on their priority pass, she added. What appeared to be priority on the surface really wasn’t priority.

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