UCSD's Geisel Library. Photo by Chris Stone
UCSD’s Geisel Library. Photo by Chris Stone

In 1964, the first class of four-year undergraduates enrolled at University of California San Diego and in 1967, Dr. Hugh Bradner, Provost of Revelle College, presented 20 candidates for the degree of Bachelor of Arts. John S. Galbraith, the chancellor, conferred degrees on the first four-year class of undergraduates. None of them lived on campus. 

Since those founding days, UC San Diego — originally to be named University of California La Jolla — has made monumental strides and is now the largest civilian employer in San Diego County.

Opinion logo

This year, UCSD welcomed 43,000 students and will graduate more than 11,000. The degrees will be a combination of Bachelor’s, Master’s, Ph.D., M.D., and Pharmacy. Of the total enrollees, approximately 15,000 live on campus. 

Geographically, in this year’s undergraduate class fewer than a quarter were from San Diego or Imperial Counties. The largest group at 35% was from Los Angeles and Orange County, 20% were from elsewhere in California, 7% from out of state, and 17% international.  

The undergraduate student body had a very broad mix of ethnicities as only 19% were white,  21% Hispanic, 37% Asian, 17% international, and 3% Black, according to the annual UCSD Student Profile published by the university. 

The Forbes annual ranking placed UCSD as the 17th best university in the Nation and the campus was also ranked the third best public university (University of California, Berkeley and University of California, Los Angeles were number one and two). UCSD is the second most applied to institution for undergraduates in the country with more than 130,000  applications (number one is UCLA).  

The school has an academic staff of 11,000 and administrative staff of more than 24,000.  

Graduate Program 

UCSD’s comprehensive graduate program is comprised of several divisions and professional schools, including the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Institute of Engineering in Medicine, School of Global Policy and Strategy, Jacobs School of Engineering, Rady School of Management, and Skaggs School of Pharmacy. 

Medical Facilities 

The UCSD School of Medicine is the only medical school in San Diego County. The first cohort of medical students (39 men and eight women) enrolled in 1968. This year, UCSD School of Medicine faculty rank number one in the nation in federal research funding per faculty member and number one in clinical research. Today, the School of Medicine has 500 students and 900+ residents and fellows.  

The 364-bed Jacobs UCSD Medical Center opened in 2016. It is one of a number of medical facilities on campus, including the Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center, Shiley Eye Institute and Moores Cancer Center .

The School of Medicine is also closely affiliated with several nearby regional research centers such as the Salk Institute, Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, the Scripps Research Institute and the La Jolla Institute for Immunology.  

Past as Prologue 

In terms of land, UCSD owns or controls 2,200 acres, half of which comprise the main campus. The Hillcrest medical campus has 60 acres. The next major land development effort will be 50 acres on the east side of Interstate 5 adjacent to the medical school.  

Although construction on campus is routine, starting in 2020 there has been a burst of major new construction activity. The first Living and Learning project on North Torrey Pines Road opened in 2020 and consists of 2,000 apartment beds and a grand total of 1.6 million gross square feet — the largest in the history of the school.   

Not to be outdone, a second Living and Learning project is nearing completion in the Theater District at Torrey Pines Road and La Jolla Village Drive. That gargantuan project has 2,000 beds in high-rise towers and approximately 900,000 gross square feet, a 19,000-square-foot market hall curated with many local food and beverage vendors, a new signature restaurant, and an Amazon fulfillment center, all supported by four levels of below grade parking.  

Yet a third major residential complex is now underway near the Blue Line Trolley Station. Known as Pepper Canyon West Living and Learning Neighborhood, it will have 1,300 single-occupancy rooms in two 20+ story towers and will also include retail space and a grand total of 580,000 square feet. The state of California has contributed $100 million for the project.  

Ridge Walk is the fourth major student residential project in process. With 2,400 student beds, it will include 18 new classrooms and a 150-seat lecture hall. 

With the current housing on campus, UCSD can guarantee beds for two years for 2023 incoming students. Dr. Pradeep Khosla, chancellor of UCSD, has stated a goal of housing 50% of all students on campus by 2025. A future goal is to offer a four-year housing guarantee at below-market rates.  

Early planning has recently begun for yet another student housing community at Pepper Canyon East, which could deliver yet another 3,500 or more student housing beds, retail, and entertainment. 

Other recent projects range from a 28,000-seat amphitheater to a new fire station and Triton Center, a four-building, $428 million student center.

UCSD Funding

In the 2022 fiscal year, the university received $1.64 billion in research funding, up from $1.54 billion the previous year. This marks the 13th consecutive year the University has topped more than $1 billion in research funding.  

On a similar path, the school’s endowment fund continues to grow and now surpasses $2 billion. 

The next time you have a few hours free, take a stroll through the La Jolla campus. Explore the more than 20 pieces of public art curated throughout campus as part of the Stuart Collection and have lunch at the Price Center. You won’t see a lot of students out and about because they are in their dorms studying.

Alan Nevin is director of the Gafcon‘s Economic Consulting Group.