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UC Drops Detour for Applicants

If the state budget deal is approved, students told to transfer in two years could be admitted in the fall. Some exult; others say the offer is too late.

July 28, 2004|Stuart Silverstein and Jean-Paul Renaud | Times Staff Writers

In another twist on their college admission path, 5,800 students who were previously told they could attend a University of California campus only after transferring from community college now will be offered a UC spot this year if the new state budget deal is approved.

But with the expected offer coming so soon before the beginning of the fall term, the turnabout is causing a mixture of glee and confusion among the prospective freshmen. The university system estimates that only 1,600 will accept the late-in-the-game offer.

Take, for example, Shannon Prior of Menlo Park. As a high school senior last year, she sized up several colleges and concluded that UC Santa Barbara was the best one for her.

Yet in the spring she received a "guaranteed transfer option" from UC Santa Barbara, which would require her first to spend two years at a community college. For weeks, she clung to hope that a new budget deal would enable UC to admit her directly.

But now that such a deal has been worked out, Prior says it's probably too late. She already has signed up for classes and arranged financial aid to attend Cal State Chico. She worries that the UC classes she needs are already filled.

"I'm established at Chico," she said. "It'd be hard to up and switch and totally redo things, when school is about to start in 20 days."

However, some students say they will leap at the UC opportunity even if it means changing plans quickly.

Arman Matevosyan, who recently graduated from Herbert Hoover High School in Glendale, had accepted an offer to transfer to UCLA after attending Glendale Community College.

He was planning to register for his community college classes today.

If he receives an official offer to go to UCLA as a freshman, he won't have to think twice.

"There's no point in me going to a community college right now. I'd go to a UC right now," he said. "I'm unbelievably happy. I can't even explain to you how happy I am."

Originally, 7,600 applicants were directed to community colleges. That was reduced to 5,800 when UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz opened the door to more students.

Of those, "some students will take this offer; others will have made other plans," said Hanan Eisenman, a spokesman for UC.

The students will be notified by mail and through a website "as soon as possible" after the budget is ratified by the Legislature, which is expected this week, he said.

Individual UC campuses said plans were still being worked out, and some might not be able to accept students until the winter or spring term.

UC will still be hurt by spending cuts in areas such as research, administration and outreach, but the restoration of enrollment funds "is very good news from the perspective of preserving the master plan and guaranteeing access for all eligible students," Eisenman said. "We look forward to welcoming these students to the university as freshmen. We're happy about this agreement."

The UC spokesman said he wasn't sure whether the eight undergraduate campuses, some of which already suffer from crowding, would have trouble offering the late enrolling students all the courses they wanted this fall.

"We're going to make the process as smooth as possible for them and do our best to make it work," he said.

Under the deal between legislative leaders and the governor, UC would spend about $12 million to enroll the 1,600 new students.

Darlene Hunter, associate director of admissions at UC Davis, said she hoped students on her campus could enroll in the fall.

When the initial transfer plan was implemented amid budget cuts, she said, "we were as disappointed as these students. But now there is a change, and we are going to do the best we possibly can to facilitate a cohesive, smooth transition for these students."

She said the Davis campus would try to provide the late-enrolling students the classes, housing and counseling they needed.

The withdrawal of the plan to divert students to community colleges is creating some confusion and hard feelings.

"One big problem that I see with the 'now there are cuts' and 'now budgets will be restored' is that students and families feel jerked around and can't plan effectively," said Alice Kleeman, Prior's college advisor at Menlo-Atherton High School in the Silicon Valley.

"A lot of students read only the gloom-and-doom headlines and just give up without assessing the situation. There's no sense of security," she said.

Arlene Salazar, an 18-year-old graduate of San Fernando High School, knows about uncertainty.

She originally wanted to attend a UC school but, when the best offer she received was a guaranteed transfer option from UC Berkeley, she changed plans. She decided to begin her studies in September as a freshman at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts.

She has been awarded financial aid, gotten in touch with her assigned roommate and decided to major in the performing arts at the four-year school.

Now, Salazar says, she would switch her plans, provided she received a formal offer from UC Berkeley soon.

As time to start school is drawing near, she likes the idea of being closer to her family's home in Pacoima.

"It's kind of scary and stuff to go so far away," she said.

Princess Yerushalmi said that, rather than first attending Santa Monica College for two years, she hoped to go directly to UCLA.

Yerushalmi, a recent graduate of the Ohr HaEmet Institute for Girls, a private Jewish school near her home in the Pico-Robertson area, acknowledged that she could save money by starting her studies at Santa Monica College and said she would discuss that issue with her parents.

But, she said, "If they're willing to pay, I'm going to run to UCLA."

"It would be much easier going to UCLA. I wouldn't need to compete anymore to be able to transfer," Yerushalmi said.

"I'd be in a place where I'm supposed to be. It would make me feel better and more comfortable. I'd be there, and I could finish there."

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