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Numbers of Blacks, Latinos Admitted to UC System Rise

California and the West

Education: Outreach efforts are paying off, official says, 'but we have a long way to go.' Levels still lag at UCLA, Berkeley.

April 04, 2001|REBECCA TROUNSON and KENNETH R. WEISS | TIMES EDUCATION WRITERS

The University of California announced Tuesday that it has accepted a record number of Latinos and has significantly increased admissions among African Americans for next fall's freshman class.

But numbers for the two minority groups remain depressed at the two most competitive campuses, UC Berkeley and UCLA.

Across its eight undergraduate campuses, UC admitted 46,130 California high school seniors, a 10.4% rise from last year, according to annual freshman admissions figures. The increase is the leading edge of an anticipated decade-long growth spurt as the children of baby boomers reach college age.

Throughout the UC system, the numbers of Latino and African American students admitted surpassed those for 1997, the last year the university considered race or ethnicity in admissions before an affirmative action ban was imposed.

"Overall, we are making progress, but we have a long way to go," said Dennis Galligani, UC's associate vice president for student academic services.

The numbers released Tuesday do not include out-of-state or international admissions, a relatively small proportion of the student population at the state's leading public university system.

The numbers of whites and Asian Americans, the largest groups of students admitted, each grew about 9% from last year, a reflection of the system's overall growth.

UC officials say they have worked hard to boost the numbers of black, Latino and Native American students, which plummeted after the university banned affirmative action.

Given that the university sent out more acceptance notices overall this year, however, the underrepresented minority students continue to make up a smaller proportion of the admitted freshman class than was true during the affirmative action era.

Moreover, at UC Berkeley and UCLA, the system's two most selective campuses, the numbers of African Americans admitted remain more than 40% lower than in 1997.

Berkeley posted a slight increase over last year in the number of African Americans admitted to next fall's freshman class. The flagship campus sent letters of admission to 293 black students, fewer than 4% of the total 7,601 California high school seniors who received such offers from UC Berkeley.

At UCLA, such offers went out to 265 African Americans, a slight decrease from last year. That is less than 3% of the 9,609 California high school students with offers from the Westwood campus.

"I'm incredibly distressed about it," said UCLA admissions director Rae Lee Siporin. "It's a small group and not growing the way Latinos are growing."

The proportion of Latinos admitted across the UC system grew more than any other group, an 18% jump from last year.

Berkeley and UCLA also reported substantial gains this year in offers to Latino students.

UC officials attributed some of the increase to the growing population of Latinos statewide. The number of Latinos graduating from high school this year increased 4.3%, outpacing the state's overall surge in student population.

But Galligani noted that Latinos are applying to the university--and being admitted--at an even faster clip. He said that in the past two years, the university has spent more than $250 million annually to help minority and underprivileged students meet admissions standards.

"Certainly we would like to believe the investment made in our outreach efforts is paying off," Galligani said.

Today, UC officials will appear before the Legislature to explain their admissions practices and encourage lawmakers to continue funding programs that reach into grammar and high schools to prepare students for the rigor of university-level work.

The prestigious university system has come under increasing criticism from lawmakers for failing to show more progress in broadening racial diversity of its top campuses in the years since the university banned affirmative action.

The Legislature and student protesters are urging the UC Board of Regents to rescind the ban. Such a move would be only symbolic, because voters approved Proposition 209 in 1996, prohibiting the use of race, ethnicity and gender as criteria for hiring or admission by any state body.

Now that admissions letters have gone out, the next phase of outreach begins--persuading students to take UC up on its offers.

"Admission is only the first hurdle; now we must convince these students to enroll," said UC President Richard C. Atkinson.

Most of the best students have multiple offers, often from several UC campuses and competing private universities. Students have until May 1 to send in deposits to reserve spots in the freshman class.

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who has been critical of UC recruiting efforts, said he is "cautiously optimistic" that the gains in underrepresented minority admissions will turn into boosts in enrollment this fall.

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