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Outraged Students Claim Their College Is Kicking People Out

An overbooked university isn't the same as an overbooked flight.

Photo by Joe Piette/Flickr.

Remember how, back in April, United Airlines faced the anger of the nation after a doctor who refused to give up his seat was dragged off an overbooked flight? Along with being shocked by the incident, people also wanted to know what their rights were — did they actually have to give up their seat if the airline demanded it?

[quote position="left" is_quote="true"]They might be withdrawing admissions on purpose.[/quote]

Now imagine that a university overbooks its freshman class, and to deal with it, the school decides to rescind nearly 500 offers of admission, essentially kicking students off the higher education plane. That’s what some students who were accepted to the University of California Irvine say has happened to them a mere two months before classes for the 2017-2018 school year are set to begin.

“UCI overenrolled freshmen, so they might be withdrawing admissions on purpose to kick as many students out,” one of the students, 18-year-old Emily Roche, told the Los Angeles Times on Friday. Roche said the official reason she was given was that her transcript was not submitted to the school on time.

In a letter posted on the UCI student affairs website, Thomas A. Parham, vice chancellor for student affairs, said that the school had more students register for fall classes than they’d expected. That led the admissions office to take “a harder line on the terms and conditions this year,” such as turning in transcripts and final grades.

Just as airlines oversell flights in anticipation that some passengers won’t show up, colleges routinely offer more spots in their freshman class than they have room for. They know that not every high school senior that gets accepted will ultimately decide to attend. And, of those students who send in a deposit and agree to enroll as freshman, some end up choosing to take a gap year or switch to a different school at the last minute.

In UCI’s case, the school had a whopping 104,000 applications for its freshman class and offered 31,103 applicants spots for the fall. Of those students, about 7,100 students accepted UCI’s admissions offer, but the school only has space for 6,250 freshman — about 850 more students than UCI expected — according to the Times.

One frustrated student told the Times about having turned down scholarships at other schools because he chose UCI. Another student said that he had already turned in student housing information when they found out that his offer was rescinded because of a supposedly missing item on a transcript. Students have reported that when they tried to contact the school, they were put on hold for hours, and some said that they sent in materials on time but were still told that items were missing.

This many students having their admissions offers rescinded due to transcripts missing and other similar issues doesn’t appear to have happened at UCI before. Don Hossler, a senior scholar at the Center for Enrollment Research, Policy and Practice at the University of Southern California, told Inside Higher Ed that it seems more likely that “something went off the wheels with their projection models.”

Could this happen at other schools, though? Hossler said that recent growth in enrollment across the entire University of California system means that “their projection models are probably not as good because they have only been allowed increased nonresident students for a few years (and their international yields are probably even more volatile).”

Parham acknowledged that the school’s “traditional communication and outdated telephone systems ... did not serve us well in this circumstance.” What should bring some relief to students is that his letter clarified that “All accepted students who meet the terms and conditions of the admissions offer will be welcomed” at UCI. “No acceptance will be withdrawn due to over-enrollment, despite external reports to the contrary,” he wrote.

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