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UCLA to get twice as many black freshmen

Incentives and a new admissions process have improved numbers that had troubled the school.

May 12, 2007|Larry Gordon | Times Staff Writer

The number of black students who intend to enroll as UCLA freshmen in the fall will be double last year's, an increase to 203 that officials attribute to changes in application review methods and to new private scholarships organized by African American alumni.

The boost, announced Friday, eased concerns that blacks' presence at UCLA had declined so much -- down to 103 freshmen or 2.2% of the class last year -- that some African Americans felt uncomfortable at the Westwood campus and others were reluctant to enroll.

UCLA Acting Chancellor Norman Abrams said he was very pleased with the increase and thanked alumni and current students who raised scholarship donations and sponsored events to woo blacks wavering about enrollment. Abrams said all that was done without violating Proposition 209, the state initiative that bans the use of race in university admissions.

"I think we got the message out that we are a welcoming environment and that we have this great legacy and tradition with regard to African American students," Abrams said, referring to such black alumni as former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ralph Bunche.

Among the incoming freshmen is Miles Rashaad Goodloe, a highly ranked Crenshaw High School student and musician who said a $9,000 grant from the privately funded African American Student Scholarship Fund tipped him to UCLA over UC Berkeley and three other schools. "What it really came to at the end was finances," said Goodloe, who plans to major in economics and minor in music.

On previous UCLA visits, Goodloe said, he was shocked at the low number of blacks. "I didn't see many people who looked like me," he said. But his recent contacts with black student organizations and alumni made him feel welcome.

Peter Taylor, the Los Angeles businessman who chairs the scholarship fund, said all African Americans accepted to the UCLA freshman class were offered a minimum $1,000 grant from the $1.75 million raised. Depending on financial need and academic promise, grants went as high as $9,000 to compete with well-funded private colleges.

Taylor, a UCLA alumnus, was among a group of activists and campus leaders who were upset last year when the University of California released figures showing that only 96 black freshmen -- the number later climbed slightly -- intended to attend UCLA.

In response, the changes to the admissions process were made, the scholarship effort was started and recruiting events were bolstered, such as a dinner last month attended by about 300 students and parents.

This fall's 203 enrollments, 4.5% of the class, create "a decent critical mass of African American students on campus," Taylor said. "It has the makings of a good community. They can interact with each other and interact with folks of all the different cultures, ethnic groups and political views you are supposed to in college."

Although improved, the African American ranks at UCLA remain low compared with their share, about 11%, of public high school graduates in Los Angeles County.

UCLA received 48,561 freshman applications from U.S. students this year and offered admission to 11,578. Of those, 4,495 stated that they intend to enroll in a freshman class that is expected to be 200 slots smaller than last year, when officials said over-enrollment caused some crowding. About 140 foreign students will also attend.

Asian Americans will make up the largest ethnic share of the class, as they have for several years: an expected 1,854 freshmen, or 41.2% of the U.S. students, a drop from 44.6% last year.

White enrollment is 1,481, or 32.9%, compared with 32.1% last year. The number of Latino freshmen is up slightly, to 657, representing 14.6%, compared with 13.9% last year.

Officials attributed some of those changes to a more "holistic" admissions process this year in which applicants' grades and test scores were reviewed more fully in the context of their life experiences. UC leaders say that process was race-blind.

Former UC Regent Ward Connerly, the conservative architect of Proposition 209, said the new scholarship effort did not break the law. "Certainly if people privately want to offer scholarships, that's their business and I have no problem with them using their money however they see fit," he said.

But he said he suspected the application review of students' non-academic records was unequally applied in some cases to blacks and Latinos versus whites and Asians. "I wish I weren't suspicious," Connerly said.

Even with the new scholarships, UCLA did not win all the accepted black students. Courtney Porter, a Carson resident who attends the King/Drew Medical Magnet High School, chose UC Berkeley, she said, for its Northern California location and because she felt more genuinely welcomed there.

"I had a feeling that UCLA was desperate for African American students and recruiting me more just to get their numbers up," she said.

On the other hand, Marvin C. McClain Jr. passed on UC Berkeley, Stanford and five other schools in favor of UCLA partly because of a $9,000 grant from the new black-oriented fund.

The Inglewood High School senior, who wants to study computer science and engineering, said he was not deterred by the relatively low numbers of blacks at UCLA. "It entered my mind that I would be leaving my comfort zone. But I wanted to see other kinds of people and become more well-rounded," he said.

For the UC system overall, officials recently released a tentative freshman enrollment total of 36,693 at the nine undergraduate campuses for the fall. Of those, Asians comprised 41.4%; whites, 31.5%; Latinos, 17.3% and blacks 3.4%. More complete statistics are expected later this month.

UC Merced, the newest campus, noted a big jump for its third freshman class: 693 so far compared with 458 this time last year.

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larry.gordon@latimes.com

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