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How CSU East Bay made the list of competitive colleges

  • October 26, 2011

By Nanette Asimov,
Chronicle Staff Writer

One of the nation's most competitive universities - tied for 39th place with UC Berkeley in a new ranking, and tougher to get into than Tufts - is an unlikely campus in that cutthroat category: Cal State East Bay.

The humble Hayward campus is part of California State University, which admits all students who complete high school requirements with at least a C average and live within the school's attendance area.

So why does it rank high in a new list of the nation's 100 most competitive colleges from U.S. News & World Report? The ranking notes that Cal State East Bay admitted just 22 percent of applicants for fall 2010 - the same as UC Berkeley, and a lower rate than UCLA (23 percent) and Tufts (24 percent), among others.

"How interesting!" said a laughing Greg Smith, associate vice president for enrollment at Cal State East Bay.

He said the campus actually admitted 33 percent of applicants - more than the reported 22 percent, but a far lower rate than just a year earlier.

Even at 33 percent, Cal State East Bay would rank as the nation's 100th-most-competitive university - tied with CSU's highly competitive Cal Polytechnic campus in San Luis Obispo and famed Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh.

Just a year earlier, Cal State East Bay's admission rate was a friendly welcome mat at 73 percent. But CSU decided to reduce enrollment after California cut millions of dollars from its state allocation. Here's how that played out at Cal State East Bay: About 9,700 students applied to the campus for fall 2010. The school tentatively admitted about 6,500 who claimed to be qualified.

In most years, applicants have until July to provide their high school transcript as proof of eligibility. But in 2010, CSU imposed a February deadline in hopes that a large number of applicants wouldn't have their paperwork ready in time. It worked.

"We were trying to ensure that we didn't have more CSU freshmen than we could serve," Smith said.

Although all 23 CSU campuses did the same, the East Bay campus was especially vigilant in deadline keeping. Campus officials said they were still sorting out the numbers last spring when it was time to fill out the U.S. News & World Report survey. They reported admitting 2,180 of 9,925 applicants, or 22 percent.

Actual admissions were closer to 3,200 of 9,700 applicants, or 33 percent, Smith said.

Robert Morse, director of data research at U.S. News, tried to make the best of it. "They still rejected 2 out of 3 people," he said.

-- For U.S. News & World Report's full list of the 100 universities with the lowest acceptance rates:


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