The University of California announced Thursday that it has admitted a greater proportion of underrepresented minority students for the fall freshman class than it did in 1997, the last year before it instituted a ban on affirmative action in admissions.
The proportion of Latino, African American and Native American students admitted topped 19%, compared to 18.8% five years ago, the last time race and ethnicity could be considered as a factor.
Throughout the UC system, the number of Latino students offered admission set a record for second straight year. The number of admitted African American students also rose, although not to record levels, officials said.
UC officials expressed satisfaction with the rebounding minority figures, which they said reflected not only the shifting demographics of the state, but concerted efforts by the university to reach out to underrepresented students.
''We've been seeing steady progress in this regard,'' said Dennis Galligani, UC's associate vice president for student academic services. ''And this year we were able to reach 19.1%, so that's very good news.''
The percentages of Latinos and African Americans also rose at UCLA--the UC system's most popular campus--but remained virtually unchanged from last year at the university's flagship campus, UC Berkeley.
Across its eight undergraduate campuses, the UC admitted 48,369 California high school seniors for its fall class, a 4.9% increase from last year, according to the figures released Thursday.
The figures do not include out-of-state or international admissions, which make up a relatively small proportion of the student population at the state's leading public university system.
Among the patterns: Young women make up an increasing proportion of the admitted freshman class--about 57%.
Overall, a new admissions policy that allows consideration of personal factors as well as grades and test scores appears to have had only modest impact on the ethnic makeup of the new freshman class, officials said.
The increases among underrepresented minorities were most dramatic at UC San Diego, where the proportion of Latino, African American and Native American students in the incoming class rose nearly 3% from last year. Still, they totaled only 14.4% of the roughly 16,000 students offered admission--the second-lowest in the UC system, just above UC Davis at 14.3%.
UC San Diego admissions director Mae Brown said officials were ''delighted to see the changes.''
UC officials said they have worked hard to boost the number of black, Latino and Native American students, which dropped precipitously after the university banned affirmative action. UC regents voted last year to rescind the ban but by that time their move was mainly symbolic. A statewide initiative, Proposition 209, prohibiting the use of race, ethnicity and gender as criteria for hiring or admission by any state body had been passed.
The university system has come under considerable pressure from the Legislature to show more progress in broadening the racial diversity of its student body, especially at its most competitive campuses.
On Thursday, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who has often been critical of the university's efforts, applauded the progress but said more remains to be done.
''We've had five years to try to let underrepresented minority students know that the unwelcome mat was no longer out at the UC,'' Bustamante said. ''The Legislature has intervened again and again to make sure the UC reaches out to these groups. I'm glad to see that we've made progress, but we still have a long way to go.''
The competition for slots at the system's most selective campuses remained extraordinarily tough.
At UCLA, letters of admission were sent to about 9,350 students, or 21%, of the record 43,369 who applied--a figure that again made UCLA the most popular campus not only in the UC system but nationwide, officials said.
Of those admitted to UCLA's fall class, 3.3% were African American, up slightly from 2.9% last year. Latinos also posted gains, making up 13.3% of the admitted class compared to 12.1% last year. Asian Americans again will represent the largest share of UCLA's incoming freshman class, about 42%, up slightly from last year.
''The admission of freshmen this year reflects the fact that we continue to attract a very diverse population of students,'' admissions director Vu Tran said.
At Berkeley, about one in four applicants was admitted, with the campus extending offers to 7,393 students, officials said.
But the proportion of underrepresented minorities admitted to the flagship campus grew only 0.4%, the statistics showed, and the proportion of African American students remained virtually unchanged.
With the letters sent out, UC now begins the next phase of the admissions cycle as it tries to persuade those admitted to enroll. The best students often have offers from multiple UC campuses and private universities. They have until May 1 to decide.