Gov. George Deukmejian has again emphasized the importance of higher education by proposing budget increases for the state's universities and community colleges. The governor wants also to "create an open-door prosperity that leaves no one behind." Many minorities now left behind can be helped through programs that encourage them to attend college. The governor could have been more generous in that department.
The University of California sets the tone for higher education in this state. So it is instructive to consider what it wants to do about minority students, what the governor approved and didn't, and what the Legislature might do now.
UC President David Gardner says that getting minority students into his classrooms is one of his highest priorities. Those words alone send the message to UC campuses that the man at the top cares. Beyond that, the board of regents last fall approved a request for $5.7 million more to improve programs to recruit and retain blacks and Latinos. Asian students already make up nearly 20% of overall UC enrollment.
The governor's budget approves $1.5 million of that $5.7 million, with the new money concentrated largely on two programs. One is designed to reach students in junior high and below to help them plan for college. The other encourages minority students to concentrate on mathematics, engineering and science. The latter program is partly financed by corporations and foundations.
The regents asked for a $1-million increase to help identify and counsel more young minority students who could develop the potential to attend a UC campus; the governor included $500,000 in his budget. In the 1983-84 school year this early outreach program served less than one-third of the junior and senior high schools with heavy minority enrollments. Los Angeles alone accounts for more than half of all black high-school graduates and about 45% of Latinos, and would get more attention from UC under an expanded program. It's up to the Legislature now to determine how much wider it wants to open the door to opportunity.
That door has indeed opened for more minorities than ever in the UC system, but too many walk back out because they are lonely or frustrated or poorly prepared. The university knows that it needs to do more counseling and tutoring, but its budget for these support services had been going down recently, not up. The regents asked for an extra $750,000 for counseling and tutoring, but the request did not survive the governor's cut. The Legislature should restore the funds.
Finally, the regents asked for $1.3 million with which UC faculty members and public school teachers would work together to raise the quality of teaching at schools with high minority enrollments. The governor called for more money for public schools generally, but not for that program.
The UC request came in response to years of complaints that it did not do more to forge stronger links with public schools. The Legislature should take a hard look at the request. It has real merit.
The University of California is on the right track, but without new ideas--and the money to implement them--it cannot go the next mile on affirmative action. The next mile should have a high priority both for the students who need help and for the state whose future depends on them.