a Gift to CSUS
l Capital University Journal
of a student body
by Laurie Hall
Generation Y. The Millennials. Echo Boomers. When the biggest crop of students
ever arrived on the Sac State campus this year, most of the attention was
on the group known as Tidal Wave II, the children of the Baby Boomers. But
they’re only part of the sea change that will ripple through the University
for years to come.
For the last few years Sac State, like campuses throughout California and
the rest of the country, has been prepping for an influx of new students
based on swelling high school populations. Nevertheless, when the first
wave of students hit, it was even bigger than expected. Now they’re
dramatically changing the face of the student body and the character of
the whole campus.
economy, pursuit of second careers and the need to boost the state’s
teaching ranks had kept Sac State’s bread-and-butter populations going
strong. So when the Baby Boomer children arrived, they had a lot of company.
Women make up nearly 59 percent of the student body, up from 56
percent 10 years ago. Among graduate students, 67 percent are
70 percent of students are full-time, carrying at least 12 units.
Most students also work. A recent survey found 68 percent of students
had a part-time job and 29 percent worked 35 or more hours a week.
number of students attending the University through the Accelerated
College Entrance program has nearly doubled in the last five years
from 237 in 1998 to 550 in 2002. The program allows students to
take college level courses while still attending high school.
Sac State’s enrollment in fall 2002 reached an all-time high of 28,558
students, up from 26,923 a year before and up 21 percent from 20 years ago.
Among all CSU campuses, Sac State had the third largest increase following
San Jose State and CSU Fullerton. Sac State is now the sixth largest campus
in the 23-campus CSU system.
Over the next decade, the Sacramento Region is expected to continue growing
rapidly. Its high school and college age population will grow even faster.
Larry Glasmire, Sac State’s director of special programs and enrollment
analysis, reports that the number of high school graduates in the Sacramento
Region is projected to increase 22.2 percent between 2002 and 2010, slightly
higher than the statewide rate. And the annual growth rate for the 20-24
age group in Sacramento and Placer counties is expected to be 3.5 percent
through 2010, higher than the 2.3 percent rate for the region as a whole.
That youth movement is already being felt. While the University continues
to attract students from all segments of the population, the numbers are
definitely beginning to skew younger. Seventy-five percent of undergraduate
students in fall 2002 were between the ages of 18 and 24, up from 70 percent
in 2000. The number of “traditional students,” first-year freshmen
out of high school, has more than doubled to nearly 2,300 since 1992.
“The average age for undergraduate students used to be 27. Now the
majority of students are younger, for an average age of 24,” says
Sutee Sujitparapitaya, director of institutional research. “There
used to be more transfer students but for the last two years a larger percentage
of freshmen have begun their academic careers here. As a result the number
of students age 24 and under has increased dramatically.”
While there has been a swelling of entry-level students, interest in graduate
programs remains very strong. “In the last couple of years graduate
school applications increased 13 percent a year,“ says Miki Vohryzek-Bolden,
associate dean for graduate studies.
As might be expected, graduate students tend to be more “mature,”
with an average age of 34. Nearly half are under 30, but a healthy 26 percent
are age 40 or older.
“Some are seeking personal enrichment, as in ‘I want to learn
more.’ Others want professional development—‘I want to
move up’—or a retooling—‘I want to revamp my skills
because of technology shifts and the employment outlook,’” Vohryzek-Bolden
says. “In an era of layoffs we would expect more people to come back
to school to get skills they can apply in other settings.”
The demand for teachers has also beefed up the ranks of students seeking
second careers. Students pursuing teaching education and special education
make up 14 percent of the graduate population.
outside the classroom
In addition to the presence of more young faces, the changing demographics
are playing out in other areas as well. “I’ve definitely seen
a lot of changes,” says Dean Sorensen, program director for the
University Union. Sorensen works with UNIQUE productions, a 40-member
volunteer student board that puts on lectures, concerts, movies and dance
performances for student audiences.
“There seems to be more interest in involvement on campus in the
last four or five years,” Sorensen says. “They’re interested
in anything perceived as ‘cool’ by 18- to 22-year-olds, especially
stuff that was a big deal when they grew up.” For example, the group
recently brought former “Cosby Show” kid-turned-poet Malcolm-Jamal
Warner to campus. A year ago it was ‘80s pop star Tiffany.
Sorensen also sees that while college is a big part of students’
lives, schedules are tight. “They want to get classes taken care
of then go on to other things. It provides some programming challenges,”
he says. That means fewer weekend events and more “nooners”—concerts
and performances during the lunch hour—and Thursday night programs.
Lou Camera, director of Sac State’s student activities office, has
noticed a shift in focus as well. “What I find interesting about
younger students is they’re not as established in the community
yet. They’re looking for the out-of-class experience,” he
says. “They’re looking for leadership opportunities and ways
to get involved.”
With the influx of younger students has also come a rise in the numbers
taking part in recreation programs and student organizations. “About
8,000 students take part in co-curricular activities and 10,000 participate
in recreational activities,” Camera notes. “Greek life is
also having a resurgence.”
About half of the University’s nearly 200 student organizations
have an academic link such as the Physical Education Majors Club and the
Chemistry Club. “It shows they’re interested in looking toward
the future, in networking and making connections,” Camera says.
When potential students visit the campus for the first time, what interests
them has a lot to do with age, says Michelle Puska, a student tour guide
with University outreach services. “Freshman are interested in clubs
and campus life. Juniors are more focused on academic opportunities such
as internships,” she says.
As the campus grows it also mirrors the state’s increasing diversity.
In 1982 nearly 78 percent of Sac State students identified themselves
as white. Now that number is 46 percent. Thirty-three percent of students
consider themselves to be multi-ethnic.
The largest non-Caucasian ethnic group remains Asian/Pacific Islander,
which has grown from 7 percent of the student body in 1982 to 17 percent
in 2002. Hispanics have seen the largest percentage increase, going from
about 5 percent of the student body in 1982 to 13 percent in 2002—a
62 percent jump.
That diversity is apparent in their interests, too. “Cultural programs
are hot,” Sorensen says. “We’re finding that people
of color are really interested in our activities, particularly if they
are of value to their culture. The Chicano-Latino and Filipino communities
in particular really respond.”
A sizable contribution to campus diversity is provided by its foreign-born
students. These include not only those traditional visa students from
countries outside the United States but foreign-born new immigrants. Nearly
3,000 students from 114 countries enrolled at Sac State this fall, meaning
10 percent of the student body is foreign-born.
8,000 students participate in student organizations, which include:
than 30 cultural organizations ranging from the Fijian Students
Organization to Ebony Nation to Raza Unida.
than 70 departmental professional clubs ranging from the American
Criminal Justice Association to the Dramatist Society to the Society
of Automotive Engineers to the Student Fashion Association.
cultural-professional groups such as the Multicultural Organization
of Science Students, the Indo-American Technology Association
and the International Business Organization.
than 35 Greek organizations
special interest groups such as the Disabled Student Union, the
Environmental Students Organization, Model United Nations and
the Queer-Straight Alliance.
students came from Pacific Rim countries such as China, Japan, Taiwan
and South Korea and Asian countries such as India and Pakistan. Among
the permanent residents the majority were from Mexico followed by Vietnam,
Thailand, the Philippines and Laos.
“We’re a state that is very diverse. And the University reflects
California’s diversity,” says Eric Merchant, coordinator of
international students and programs for the global education office, which
is directed by Jack Godwin.
International students choose Sac State for a variety of reasons. Most
European students are here on exchange between the University and their
home school. For others, the cultural makeup of the Sacramento Region
is the draw. “Many students have relatives in the area,” Merchant
says. “Plus they often have friends already going here who are happy
with the campus. Our number one marketing tool is our existing students.”
Academic options play a huge role as well. “A large percentage of
international students tend to choose professional programs as majors,
such as engineering, business administration definitely, and education
as well. But we also have a large portion in other majors like interior
design. Fifty percent of international students are graduate students,”
Not all international ties involve students coming to Sacramento. Nearly
250 Sac State students are studying abroad in more than 26 countries—that’s
nearly three times the number 10 years ago. Interest has remained strong,
and has actually increased in the post-Sept. 11 era, says Monica Freeman,
coordinator of international programs for global education.
“I think everyone expected students to be reluctant to study abroad
after Sept. 11. But quite the opposite happened,” Freeman says.
“They’re even more aware that the rest of the world affects
their daily lives. Language acquisition and cultural knowledge are important
in the larger picture.”
Interest in global issues also has students flocking to discussions of
current events. “There are good turnouts when the Muslim or Jewish
groups host discussions on the Middle East,” Camera says.
And while the events of Sept. 11 seemed to have spurred an interest in
learning about the world around them, it doesn’t seem to have made
them more interested in traditional politics. “Students are getting
less involved in partisan politics,” Camera says. “During
the last election lots of students registered to vote but they’re
disillusioned. The College Democrats didn’t really form. The Young
Republicans were quiet. The Greens and the Libertarians have been on campus
in the past but not for the last election.”
Sorensen agrees there’s not that much interest in politics as usual
but adds, “Of course, if we could get a presidential candidate to
come to campus, like John McCain did in 2000, they’d be happy. There’s
a ‘cool factor’ to that.”
Students are, however, interested in social issues. They packed a recent
appearance by actor-environmental activist Woody Harrelson. “They’re
more socially conscious than students of eight or 10 years ago,”
Sorensen says. “They’ve been educated in environ-mental issues.”
They also seem to be taking an interest in their own well-being. Compared
to their counterparts across the country, Sac State students drink less
alcohol and are considerably less likely to engage in high-risk drinking.
A national survey showed Sac State students on average consume 2.6 drinks
per week, compared to 5.2 for students around the country. And 28.9 percent
of Sac State students had “binged” (drank five drinks at a
sitting) within the previous two weeks as opposed to 42 percent nationwide.
Most students also don’t smoke. A campus survey found 64 percent
had never smoked and 69 percent had not had a cigarette in the previous
30 days. “Our students make healthy choices,” says Heather
Dunn-Carlton, a campus health educator with student activities.
The University is working with student groups to reduce those numbers
even further. STAND, Students Taking Action Against Nicotine Dependence,
offers smoking cessation programs and has lobbied for stricter campus
non-smoking policies. And the campus has a number of programs in place
to encourage responsible alcohol use including a team of student peer
In the classroom today’s students seem to be staying the course
on areas of study. Teacher education is the largest program on campus.
The most popular undergraduate major remains business/management, attracting
14 percent of the student body, although the numbers are down from the
all-time highs of the early 80s. It is followed by criminal justice at
6 percent. Sac State’s criminal justice program is the largest west
of the Mississippi.
“When students come for tours, obviously one of their biggest areas
of interests is in academic programs,” says tour guide Ian Menke.
“Business and criminal justice are big draws.”
Social work is the most popular non-teaching major among graduate students.
Other sought-after graduate majors include counseling, education administration,
nursing, and speech pathology and audiology.
For other areas, such as biological sciences, there has been a growth
in what’s known as a ‘professional’ master’s degree.
“The emphasis is on the link between the academic side and the applied
science side in an effort to meet the needs of industry,” Vohryzek-Bolden
says. Students are also interested in programs that offer research opportunities
such as the master’s in geology with its ties to the U.S. Geological
Survey, she says.
Increasing numbers of graduate students also seem to be interested in
a general-interest major. “Liberal arts has gone up three-fold,”
CSUS Office of Institutional Research, CSUS Tobacco-Free Advocacy Project,
CSUS Office of Academic Affairs, CSUS Alcohol Advisory Council, CSUS Office
of Global Education, CSUS California Institute for County Government,
CSU Chancellor’s Office, U.S. Department of Education, Core Institute.