Thirty-three public high schools in Southern California failed to participate in a new program that would have guaranteed their top students admission to the University of California.
They are among 134 public schools statewide whose administrators either missed the deadline to send students' transcripts or decided their students didn't need the program. Because of that omission, the top 4% of students at those schools will not have the same advantage in the highly selective application process as peers who are participating.
This week, students across the state frantically worked to finish and send their UC applications, which had to be postmarked by Thursday. The roughly 11,250 students from public and private schools who qualified for the new eligibility program each received a number to mark on their applications. That number is their ticket to a coveted seat at one of the eight UC schools for fall 2001, though not necessarily their first choice.
About 85% of the state's 852 public high schools participated in the new eligibility program this year. But 21 schools in Los Angeles County, 10 in Orange County and two in Ventura County missed the deadline and, thus, the students did not receive numbers.
Chatsworth, James Monroe and Antelope Valley high schools are among those that missed the deadline. Officials at those schools could not be reached Thursday afternoon.
Tessa Del Castillo said her daughter Pauline is ranked 10th out of a senior class of 626 at Channel Islands High School in Oxnard, and is applying to three UC schools: Davis, UCLA and Irvine. Del Castillo said she's frustrated that the Oxnard school did not send in the transcripts.
"If it's something that would really benefit their students, they should have done something about it," she said. "It's really too bad."
Channel Islands administrators could not be reached for comment.
Several hundred students could be affected by their administrators' failure to send the transcripts to the university. But some of these high school seniors will get into a UC school anyway because they rank among the top seniors statewide. UC officials estimate that as many as two-thirds of the students that will be accepted through the "4% program" may have already been eligible for admission.
The program began this year as part of an effort to reach out to schools that don't send many students on to the UC system, typically those in minority and low-income neighborhoods. It allows students who are top performers at their high schools to get into a UC school--even if their grades and test scores would otherwise not be competitive enough. The new criteria allows students to be compared to peers at their own high schools rather than to students statewide.
Though the new policy was intended to help minority students after affirmative action programs were banned, UC officials say it isn't expected to significantly change the racial balance of the university.
High school administrators were asked to send the top seniors' transcripts to the university by July 15, or by July 31 if they were granted an extension. Then the university reviewed those transcripts and selected the top 4% of students at each high school. Students still have to take the SATs and complete the required coursework. Low test scores won't disqualify the students, but will make it harder for them to get into the more competitive campuses like Berkeley and UCLA.
Manual Arts High School in South Los Angeles failed to meet the deadline because of a bureaucratic mix-up. The campus lost four administrators at the end of last school year, one of whom was responsible for calculating grade point averages. Without the requisite GPA's, the school had no way of identifying which students were eligible.
"It's obviously something that should not be missed and won't be missed again," said the school's college advisor, who would not give her name.
Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach missed the deadline because of a paperwork snafu. Counselors there had identified nearly 50 top students for the UC program and forwarded the list to the records office. But a secretary, unaware of the strict deadline, left for summer vacation without mailing the transcripts. The list was still sitting untouched when the counselors returned to school in mid-August.
"We don't intend to have that happen again," said Dave Beard, the school's head counselor.
Beard said the mistake would have only a minimal impact because most students at the academic magnet graduate with far more courses and credits than those required by UC campuses.
Santa Susana High School in Simi Valley didn't participate in the program this year because its top 4% of students already qualified for UC admission, said counselor Tom Muenzer. "I did not put anybody at a disadvantage," he said. "This particular senior class has a real competitive edge."