Wednesday, August 27, 2008

UC Berkeley students return to school -- especially Michael and Jessica

BERKELEY — More than 35,000 students began arriving at UC Berkeley for the new school year Monday, including two 13-year-old undergraduates and two others older than 60.

The 4,300-member freshman class is 55 percent female and 42 percent Asian-American. Nearly 30 percent of the first-year students have parents without a four-year college degree.

And, the school notes, Michael and Jessica are the most popular names among this year's freshmen. The class boasts about 50 of each.

But not all the beginning-of-the-year news is good, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau told reporters during his annual media briefing. With a state budget long overdue, the university is holding off on replacing retired professors, meaning that class sizes are expected to grow.

The university plans next month to launch the public phase of a massive fundraising campaign, expected to bring about $3 billion to the school over five years, Birgeneau said. That would make it one of the largest campaigns ever at a public university.

"We have to find a way of managing our budget so that we're less vulnerable," he said, adding that the state's approximately $500 million contribution to UC Berkeley is significantly less than the $800 million or so Stanford earns from its endowment every year.

The chancellor also said the school was beefing up security, due in part to recent robberies in the East Bay and to the fatal May stabbing of Cal undergraduate Christopher AdvertisementWootton, who was due to graduate that month. The campus police department is setting up a mobile command center on the student-saturated south side of the university, where most of the violence has occurred.

Students this year again will pay more for school — $8,932 for California residents, $29,539 for nonresidents — continuing a long run of annual fee increases. But low-income students will pay less than last year because of increased financial aid, Birgeneau said.

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