It is called admission-by-exception and the 10-campus U.C. system is really going for it, increasing its admission-by-exception by 60 percent in 2010. The students in large part came from out of state and internationally, which means they pay more. The 23-state universities went the opposite route admitting 40-percent fewer exception students in 2010; but their number is still close to 2,300.
"Local California kids who are qualified get first crack at U.C. and C.S.U. There are some C.S.U. and U.C. schools that are in a geographic location where they just don't have demand; so they have empty space. The question then is do you just leave the space empty?" said Assm. Marty Block, D-San Diego.
U.C. Merced is among those campuses that has struggled to attract students over the years. But education advocates say exception students are often more closely scrutinized; and judged on qualities that can't always be measured by grades and test scores.