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California and the West

UC Boosts Outreach to Needy Prospects

September 18, 1998|KENNETH R. WEISS | TIMES EDUCATION WRITER

SAN FRANCISCO — Seeking to bring more poor and minority students to the University of California, officials Thursday said they will spend an extra $38.5 million this year to help improve such youngsters' scholastic performance so they are eligible for admission to the elite nine-campus system.

Karl S. Pister, a former UC Santa Cruz chancellor brought out of retirement to shepherd such outreach efforts, said schools in Los Angeles County will get particular attention because they produce 47% of the state's black and Latino high school graduates.

"Since all UC campuses pull students from this area, all share a responsibility to help them," Pister told the UC Board of Regents. "This is not a marginal activity for the University of California, if we are to be successful. It has to be part of our core mission."

To be sure, UC officials have long been involved in tutoring programs that help prepare disadvantaged students for college. The university has been spending about $60 million a year on several hundred separate tutoring and enrichment programs.

But this year that figure is expected to double as UC officials intensify such programs to turn around the decreasing numbers of black and Latino students enrolling at UC campuses in the wake of the ban on affirmative action in admissions. About $31 million is expected to come in matching funds from participating high schools.

UC officials hope their intervention will double the number of blacks and Latinos who meet the minimum requirements for entry to the system--a 3.3 grade point average--and double the number who are "competitively eligible" to get into the most selective schools, such as UCLA and UC Berkeley. That means accumulating a GPA of 3.73, or in some cases 4.09 or higher, Pister said.

Much of the effort will be focused on improving the curriculum and performance of students at 50 "partner" high schools. About 40 of these schools have been selected so far, mostly because they historically have sent few graduates to the UC system.

UCLA, for instance, has lined up four such high schools: Inglewood, Lynwood, Westchester and Venice. UC Irvine's partner high schools are Santa Ana, Valley and Century, all in Santa Ana; Costa Mesa and Estancia, both in Costa Mesa; Santiago in Garden Grove; and Dominguez in Compton.

To make sure the programs are working, UC officials plan to track how many students enroll in algebra as high school freshmen and how many stay on track to complete all of the college preparatory courses required for UC admission.

Pister's status report on outreach was, for the most part, warmly received by the regents, who voted in 1995 to stop giving preferences to applicants based on race, ethnicity or gender. The regents' action helped inspire Proposition 209, the ballot initiative that abolished affirmative action programs in state and local government throughout California.

But Regent Ward Connerly warned that outreach programs must follow the law and not be "a surrogate for race and ethnicity. . . . We are doing it for the benefit of the disadvantaged," he said, regardless of their skin color.

Regent John F. Hotchkis, rattling off statistics on how few students are reading at their grade level in the Los Angeles Unified School District, asked if UC officials were tackling a project that "may be over our head."

Pister agreed that "a multibillion-dollar effort is needed to fix Los Angeles schools," far more than the extra millions being directed there by the university system. All that underscores the need, he said, to target the money wisely, so it can make a difference in some places.

"We are going to try to light a candle," he said, "rather than curse the darkness."

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