California Plan Would Boost Minority Counts, Route Students Through Community Colleges
OAKLAND, Calif. University of California officials are proposing a new road to admissions that could bring in more Black and Hispanic students, provided they’re willing to take a detour through community college. The proposal, which requires approval by faculty and regents, would expand offers of guaranteed admission from the current top 4 percent of each high school to the top 12.5 percent at each high school.The additional 8.5 percent would not get immediate entry to the university system, but they would be simultaneously admitted to a four-year college and to a community college and told what courses they need to complete to transfer. Because students would transfer as upperclassmen, the new program doesn’t take away freshman seats. University officials say they have the capacity to handle up to 3,500 transfers expected from the new program by 2005. The program could make up to 12,700 more students eligible for admission. Of those, up to 36 percent are Hispanic, Black or American Indian, the three groups considered to be under-represented at the university. By contrast, under-represented minorities make up 12 percent of the current pool of freshmen eligible to attend the University of California. “Clearly, it will have an impact on the number of under-represented minorities,” the university system’s president, Dr. Richard C. Atkinson, said at a news conference last month. He says the new program doesn’t base admissions on race so it won’t violate Proposition 209, which forbids affirmative action in public education. “But the sheer fact that we will be reaching out to these low-performing high schools will guarantee that kind of additional increase.” If the new program is approved, students will be identified at the beginning of their senior year on the basis of student transcripts and invited to apply to the program. Once in, the university would maintain individual student Web pages to help keep them in the program. Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who is also a regent of the university, called the plan “a good step toward re-establishing … commitment to providing equal access.” But Regent Ward Connerly, who wrote the new race-blind policies, says he would need some assurance that the university’s academic quality won’t slip under the proposed change. He also wishes officials weren’t running demographic breakdowns of the potential new students. “If the intent is to somehow influence the number of under-represented minorities, then I think that’s breaking the law,” he says.
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