Fall classes begin this week at UC Berkeley

The 2011-12 academic year begins this week at the University of California, Berkeley, with what promises to be a record number of freshmen, financial aid for some 70 percent of undergraduates, more lower-division and foreign language courses, the opening of a law school addition, and the Cal Bears football team playing home games at AT&T Park while Memorial Stadium is under renovation.

The Cal Band prepares for new season (Photos/Yasmin Anwar)

More than 11,000 new students – 5,600 freshmen, 2,700 transfer students and 2,950 graduate students – are expected to enroll in the fall and spring semesters, bringing the total campus student population to about 36,000.  This fall, about 21,500 UC Berkeley undergraduates, including nearly 4,000 freshmen and 2,000 new transfer students, are Californians. This is approximately the same number as there were in 2006-07, before the state began to rapidly withdraw its funding for California students. (See details on this year’s incoming class)

Just over 1,700 of the incoming freshmen and transfer students hail from other U.S. states and from overseas, a moderate increase from the previous year.

“Changing our mix to include more out-of-state and international students enriches the intellectual and cultural diversity of student life,” Birgeneau said. “The tuition paid by non-state residents also has helped fund lower-division and foreign languages courses and science lab instructors, enhancing the intellectual experience of all students.”

New students at welcoming convocation

This year’s freshman class adds to the campus’s ethnic diversity: 45 percent of the freshmen are Asian American, 31 percent Caucasian, 12 percent Chicano/Latino, 3 percent African American, 3 percent Filipino and 0.8 percent Native American.

The campus culture also is enriched by the arrival of 103 veterans of the post 9/11 military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The overall number of military-affiliated undergraduates at UC Berkeley is now 300.

UC Berkeley recently was again named one of the top five universities in the world in the Academic Ranking of World Universities and continues to attract top students and faculty.  As in previous years, the entering freshman class is academically strong, with an average weighted GPA of 4.3. The campus also is consistently a top draw for graduate students with prestigious research fellowships, such as from the National Science Foundation.

Relief for low- and middle-income students

This school year, California residents will pay $11,220 in tuition and an additional $3,240 that includes health insurance and other fees. This amounts to $14,460 for two semesters at UC Berkeley. For non-California residents, tuition and all fees, including health insurance, will add up to $37,338.

Early data on financial aid packages suggest that nearly 18,000 UC Berkeley students – about 70 percent of the undergraduates – will receive some form of financial aid this academic year. An estimated 36 percent of undergraduates are projected to receive federal Pell grants, available to families that earn $45,000 a year or less.

For California undergraduates whose annual family income does not exceed $80,000, the UC Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan continues to cover tuition costs, through grants and other assistance. At UC Berkeley, middle-income California undergraduates with family incomes of under $120,000 are eligible for a one-year grant that covers a fee increase and up to $1,500, based on need.

Blue skies over the campanile

More donors supporting The Campaign for Berkeley

With state funding for operations now comprising about 12 percent of UC Berkeley’s overall budget, philanthropy has become even more vital to the campus’s continued preeminence. For the fiscal year ending this past June, UC Berkeley garnered $315.8 million in donations from alumni, students and their parents, and other supporters, and the number of donors reached 61,000 – up from 56,800 the previous year.

These donations brought the total collected for “The Campaign for Berkeley” to $2.2 billion. Launched in 2005, the campaign’s goal is to raise $3 billion by 2013.

The funds will support research, scholarships and fellowships, faculty chairs, and a wide range of programs for students and faculty today and in the future.

Targeted cost-cutting projects underway

Meanwhile, the campus continues to work on reducing its operating costs, in part, through Operational Excellence, an initiative to permanently cut $75 million. Projects to save money and improve operations are underway in areas such as budgeting, procurement, energy management, and information technology.

Construction continues to improve and modernize campus facilities

The UC Berkeley School of Law’s new addition in the southeast corner of campus is open in time to greet the new school year. The space-saving facility, with two floors below ground and one above ground, contains a better home for the school’s renowned library collection and a new classroom, café, reading room and study area.

As part of the campus’s ongoing sustainability efforts, all exterior lighting – approximately 1,000 lamp post fixtures – has been replaced by more energy efficient LEDs, saving the campus an estimated $55,000 a year in electricity costs.

Design for Memorial Stadium plaza

With 88-year-old California Memorial Stadium temporarily closed for renovation and seismic upgrading, the Golden Bear football team will play its home games this season at AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. Their first game against the Fresno State Bulldogs will be at Candlestick Park on Sept. 3.

Meanwhile, the adjacent Student-Athlete High Performance Center, which, like the stadium project, is completely donor-funded, will open this October to the first of 13 Cal intercollegiate athletic teams. The facility, constructed partly underground so as not to obscure views of the stadium’s classic façade, will feature innovative training, coaching, and applied sports science and sports medicine.

New courses enrich the overall experience

For a second year in a row, the campus is allocating a portion of the revenues generated from fee increases and out-of-state tuition to provide additional lower-division, high-demand courses to undergraduates. Last year, more than 1,700 seats were added, This year’s target is to provide  650 more spots in reading and composition classes, and another 500 seats in the lower-division chemistry, math, statistics and physics courses that are required for a broad range of science and engineering majors.

To help students gain an edge in an increasingly global society, UC Berkeley also is using $500,000 in revenues to begin adding 30 new language courses this fall in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese and some African languages.

Among the many unique academic offerings this semester, the campus’s annual “On the Same Page” program is engaging incoming students in exploring UC Berkeley as a meeting place of languages. Before arriving on campus, each incoming freshman and transfer student was invited to submit a sample of his or her spoken language. The collected samples will be put into a phonetic research database to paint a digital map of language and speech at UC Berkeley. Related “Voices of Berkeley” classes and panel discussions will be held on topics including accents, legal language, language loss and linguistic diversity.

Distinguished faculty include public policy professor Robert Reich, former U.S. secretary of labor

A year of notable anniversaries

As the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks approaches, UC Berkeley is planning a Matsui Forum, “9/11 Ten Years Later: How Did the Attack Change America?”  Free and open to the public, the event will take place Sept. 8 at 7:30 p.m. in Sutardja Dai Hall. Among the panelists will be Michael Nacht, a UC Berkeley professor of public policy and a former dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy. He was assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs in the U.S. Department of Defense in the Obama administration.

The campus will celebrate this year the 100thbirthday of Doe Library, a campus architectural and scholarly jewel designed by famed architect John Galen Howard. Festivities will include an X-ray exploration for a copper time capsule reportedly buried in a library cornerstone, the establishment of a special centennial website, and a major celebration in the library next spring.

Another centennial being observed at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology will honor Ishi, a Native American brought to the museum in 1911 from the Mount Lassen foothills by anthropologists who believed him to be the last member of his Yahi tribe.  A free, day-long “Century of Ishi” conference about Ishi at the museum on Wednesday, Sept. 7, will include panel discussions on Ishi’s songs and stories as recorded at the museum, his legacy, and how American Indians are represented in museums today.