UC President Pushes for More Diversity in Student Enrollment

 UC President Pushes for More Diversity in Student Enrollment

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LOS ANGELES -- As the deadline for enrollment applications looms, University of California President Janet Napolitano has been meeting with ethnic media journalists to help advance her plans for creating more admissions opportunities for Californians – particularly students of color.

At a November 10 forum in Los Angeles, the latest in a series of meetings organized by New America Media, Napolitano told journalists that the U-C system is mounting an outreach initiative in the state’s African-American communities to boost a black enrollment that currently represents only 4% of the student population in the University of California system.

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Photo credit: Charles Ding

Referencing the November 30 deadline for enrollment applications, she sought to debunk “incorrect assumptions” that discourage many students of color from applying and discussed engagement initiatives designed to address the longer term challenge of low black enrollment at U-C’s nine universities.

The U-C system has been trying to reverse a decline in black enrollment that began in the wake of a 1996 proposition that prohibited state government institutions from considering race, ethnicity and gender in employment, contracting and public eduction, said Napolitano, who has served as the institution’s president since 2013.

“Efforts to deal with that have not been effective,” she said. “We want the population of students to reflect the diversity of California.”

In response, Napolitano said the U-C system is now mounting outreach initiatives to identify promising black students in the 8th and 9th grades – potential future student applicants – to track their progress and engage them.

“We want to encourage those who have been underrepresented,” she said.

She said the U-C system also continues to manage college preparation initiatives that inform more African American students about the need to take advanced placement courses that would qualify them for consideration for enrollment.

Misconceptions about the cost of a U-C education are also barriers to higher enrollment of underrepresented groups said Napolitano, citing the following statistics:

    *More than half of U-C students pay no tuition because those fees do not apply to applicants from lower income families;

     *Half of U-C students graduate with no debt and the other half average debts of about $20,000;

       *The U-C system enrolls a greater share of low-income students than any other top public or private university.

Napolitano said enrollment opportunities for all Californians would expand under a proposal she has submitted to U-C’s board of regents. The proposal calls for an increase of 10,000 in in-state enrollment over the next three years.

The initiative is a response to years of years of enrollment cuts and freezes for in-state students as the system added a higher number of out-of-state and international students, who paid higher tuition to help offset state budget cuts. If approved, it would gradually reduce the number of nonresident students, who now account for 13% of the U-C student population.

The plan would be funded through $25 million allocated to boost enrollment under last year’s state budget agreement, an additional $25 million provided by UC, an expected increase in state revenues in coming years and by phasing out state financial aid the system provides for low-income student from outside California.

The regents will vote on the proposal at their November 19 meeting in San Francisco.