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UC Commitment: More Latinos get into California’s Colleges

LATINO PERSPECTIVE-The nation's finest public higher education system is so strongly committed to diversity that UC officials are ramping up last fall’s pilot program that helped 12,000 students learn how to prepare to become competitive applicants, navigate the admissions process and access financial aid. 

The “Achieve UC” program will be expanded this spring to reach 60,000 additional students at 50 events held at churches, career fairs and other venues. Ultimately, officials hope to make it a year-round program. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, Janet Napolitano, President of the UC System, (photo above) spoke recently to teachers, counselors, parents and more than 100 top students of color at Manual Arts high school here in Los Angeles. "We're putting Achieve UC on steroids," Napolitano said. "We want students and their families to know that a UC education is attainable and it's affordable." 

Shortly after the 1996 passage of Proposition 209 barred the use of race and ethnicity in college admissions decisions, the proportion of black and Latino students at UC campuses took a well-publicized nose-dive. Achieve UC is the latest in a series of outreach programs designed to increase their numbers. 

The UC chief said she was stepping up recruitment efforts after noting that the number of black and Latino students at UC is still disproportionately low. 

Although the system is designed for the top 12.5% of California students, the share of black and Latino freshmen admitted to UC for fall 2014 fell thousands short of that goal, compared to the number of potential applicants. Latinos were 47% of California's high school graduates but only 28.9% of those admitted. 

"I wasn't happy with the numbers," Napolitano added. "I thought we could do more. We should be more focused. We should put some real energy into this." 

The biggest misperception about UC, she said, is that it's unaffordable to working-class families, but the Blue and Gold scholarship will cover all tuition for families earning less than $80,000. 

The new UC Dream Loan program offers aid to undocumented students, who are ineligible for federal loans. About 45% of UC students graduate debt-free, and those who don't end up owing less than $20,000 — a worthwhile investment, she said, that doesn't depreciate the way a car does. 

Napolitano is also touting a program that helps community college students make a smooth transition to UC and is telling students that grades and standardized test scores are only two of 14 criteria officials consider in making their admissions decisions. 

As part of what they call a "holistic review," admissions officers are asking whether students have special talents, contribute to their campuses or take care of their family. 

This is a very important step in making sure students don’t graduate with the kind of debt that will haunt them for decades. We should all be proud that the UC System is working on this plan for the future workforce of California and for the future workforce of Los Angeles.

 

(Fred Mariscal came to Los Angeles from Mexico City in 1992 to study at the University of Southern California and has been in LA ever since. He is a community leader who serves as Vice Chair of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition and sits on the board of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council representing Larchmont Village. He was a candidate for Los Angeles City Council in District 4. Fred writes Latino Perspective for CityWatch and can be reached at: fred.gwnc@gmail.com) Photo: LA Times. Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.