UC President Lauds Rising Black Enrollment

UC President Lauds Rising Black Enrollment

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UC President Janet Napolitano (right) having a "fireside chat" with Alice Huffman, president of the California National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at the Chamber of Commerce event. (Photo by V Sundaram)

OAKLAND, Calif. – University of California’s ‘Opportunity Plan’ is paying off, President Janet Napolitano told the California Black Chamber of Commerce in a keynote address here last week.

Despite the 20-year-old voter-approved law that bars California’s public colleges from considering race or ethnicity in college admissions, UC campuses statewide admitted more than 8,000 black students in the past academic year, representing 4 percent of the freshmen students.

This year, the percentage of African American freshmen in the four-year programs has gone up to 5 percent, she noted. Additionally, the proportion admitted as transfer students was 5.4 percent of the total enrollment.

“So we’re moving in the right direction, and we’re very committed to continuing that trend,” Napolitano said, adding: “I wish we were not restricted by (Prop. 209), but it is the law and we’ve learned to operate within its constraints,” Napolitano said.

Napolitano pointed out that outreach to students from K to 12, “well before the application process” is helping the university reflect the state’s diversity.

She stressed that no one should be discouraged from applying to UC, believing that the prestigious university is unaffordable.

Under “UC’s Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan” tuition is entirely covered for students from families earning $80,000 or less a year, she said. And financial assistance also is available for such expenses as housing, food and books.

“More than half of California resident undergraduates pay no tuition,” she said.

Napolitano also told the gathering at the Airport Hilton that the school’s enrollment outreach also includes students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). Since the summer of 2012, the nine UC campuses have hosted 315 HBCU student scholars. More than 90 fellows have been conducting research at UC this summer. As a direct result of this initiative, 28 doctoral students and two master’s students are currently enrolled at UC. Three have already graduated with master’s degrees.

The school’s top executive said that the school’s “opportunity plan” is not limited to just the student population. With a one-time $2 million funding from the state, efforts are currently under way to hire diverse faculty at three UC schools – Riverside, Davis and San Diego.

On the business partnership front, Napolitano pointed out that in recent years the school has been working to diversity its business partners -- but all within the constraints of Prop. 209 -- so more small and disadvantaged businesses have the opportunity to work with the university.

Toward that end, last April, Napolitano created the Small and Diverse Business Advisory Council. Four of its members were in attendance at last week’s event.