“I say to you, I say to California, I say to the world with great pride and confidence: the state of UC Merced is indeed excellent.”
Those were the words of UC Merced Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz, who delivered his third State of the University address to an enthusiastic crowd last week. The speech was jam-packed with great news for the university, starting with this year’s record enrollment of more than 9,100 students.
“This is even more remarkable when one looks at the broader context. Enrollment in the US and in higher education has been declining since 2010,” Muñoz said. “This year, there are almost 300,000 fewer students enrolled nationally than in 2021.”
Muñoz said the university is anticipating enrollment to reach 15,000 by the end of the decade, which he attributed to the UC’s rapidly rising profile both in California as well as around the country. UC Merced has remained in the US News and World Report’s Top 100 universities for the third year in a row and is currently 24th in Washington Monthly’s national university rankings. This summer it also received a platinum rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education and was named a top school for indigenous as well as Hispanic and Latino students by Winds of Change magazine and Hispanic Outlook magazine respectively.
“Just think about that. In our 17th year of instruction to be in the top 50 public universities in all of the country… by any measure, this is a very good report card for any 17 year old,” said Muñoz. “I always say that we don’t do what we do to pursue or chase rankings. Rather we pursue excellence and the world takes notice.”
Muñoz also touted the UC’s Automatic Admissions Program, launched last year with the Merced Union High School District to include any local high schooler who met university criteria. The program has since expanded to Dinuba, Cutler, Orosi, Chowchilla, Los Banos and Modesto, Muñoz said.
Among the university’s other accomplishments this year are a tripling of alumni donations since 2020 and a tripling of research grants since 2019. Around $97.5 million in grants were awarded for 2,206 individual proposals this year, Muñoz said. UC Merced also received $100 million more from state government this year, which is going to a list of things from expanding the campus to climate related initiatives and a possible housing partnership with Merced College.
Next up for the university is the public phase of a major fundraising campaign. Muñoz set a goal of raising $100 million by 2030. Called “Boldly Forward,” the campaign will help the university prepare for the enrollment increase over the coming years. School leaders have already raised $54 million from 2019 to this summer.
An invitation-only event for donors is set to take place on Oct. 22 to formally kick off the new campaign.