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UC Merced, I Approve
So you're looking to attain a higher education, and your optimal preferences for choosing a college are:
- The highest level of public education available
- A brand new campus
- Tightly knit student life
- On site housing--no commuting
- An institution and location that won't break the bank
If these are your preferences, may I suggest UC Merced?
UC Merced (UCM) broke ground in 2002 and was completed in 2005, making it California's 10th UC, and the first college built in the 21st century. It currently educates 2,500 students, with a capacity of over 5,000 students (it is slightly under 50% capacity currently). It is the highest level of California's three public college marques; the Junior College system, the California State University system, and the bracket UCM falls in to--the University of California system.
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Why UC Merced?
The University of California system decided that a new UC was necessary in 1988, and knew that one needed to be placed in the San Joaquin valley.
Modesto, Stockton, Visalia, and Hanford were considered locations, among others. The board knew that it wouldn't be wise (or fair) to place a UC in a city that already had a CSU (such as Bakersfield, or Fresno). Fresno could be an acceptable location, as the only city with a population over 300,000 and it's prime location almost equidistantly between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The decision was then made that a UC needed to be at the north end of the San Joaquin valley, as southern California already had 4 UCs, coastal central California had 2 UCs, the bay area had 2 UCs, and the lower Sacramento valley had one UC (Davis).
The city of Merced petitioned that the UC land grant should be theirs, with compelling reasons:
- Merced is less than 2 and a half hours away from northern California's booming population centers: San Francisco & the bay area, and Sacramento.
- Merced is less than 2 and a half hours away from Yosemite national park, and thus could be an attractive location for a UC.
- Plenty of land is available for the UC, the population was tasteful (less than 80,000 people), and crime rates were acceptable.
- Downtown Merced needed help; although crime rates were indeed tolerable--the town was becoming run-down and believed that a UC would be a good thing for the community.
The request was accepted, and the UC board picked an area 10 minutes northwest of Merced, situated next to Yosemite Lake & Park. Within the decade, the UC broke ground and was constructed--the 10th UC was welcomed, and it's birth couldn't had been more timely.
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A Brand New UC
The construction of UC Merced couldn't had come at a better time--northern California's population was (and is) booming, people from the bay area were (and still are, more than ever) retreating inland to Stockton, Turlock, Modesto and Merced among others, for affordable living. Several UCs are now over capacity by as much as 20%; UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and UC San Diego. UC Merced's prime location suddenly became solid gold for students seeking an excellent education, while not breaking the bank. Students currently face a 78-79% chance of being declined to attend UCLA or UC Berkeley due to overcapacity among other reasons.
UC Merced is at around half-capacity for undergraduates. There are slightly over 100 full time professors at the campus currently. Acceptance rates were hovering around 76% in 2008, although students declaring intention to intend was at 11% (since others UCs were considered more desirable and/or better established). These numbers have made it easy for students that see the potential in getting the best quality university education California has to offer, without waiting in lines to attend.
The people of Merced found the opening of the UC to be timely, as well. Crime was rising slightly (although not nearly as bad as Modesto), downtown Merced was still neglected and run-down, and methamphetamine use among locals was becoming an issue--the UC's presence promised to help reinvigorate the town and it's people.
That promise has already come true--almost 4 years after it opened doors to students around the world, the town is becoming alive again. Now that education's best kept secret is out--I encourage you to give UC Merced a look--who knows, maybe a great education with a little cash left over isn't so far-fetched!