It’s official, UC Santa Cruz is the “whitest” UC. Almost.
According to the admissions data for the freshman class of 2011, UCSC and UC Santa Barbara are tied for the highest percentage of admitted students who identify as white, at 37.5 percent. That is 6.9 percent above the systemwide average of 30.6 percent.
To give that figure more context, California’s over 33.8 million residents are 44.4 percent white, 34.9 percent Latino, 12.3 percent Asian-American or Pacific-Islander, and 6.4 percent black, according to the State Department of Finance’s survey. Somehow, UCSC is falling short on its promise to provide an education for all qualified high school graduates.
There are attempts to address this disparity, such as the UC’s Blue and Gold program, which promises that students whose households earn less than the median family income a year will pay no student fees. But these programs are not enough to truly provide equal access to all of California’s citizens. Many prospective students of color would be the first in their family to attend an institution of higher learning. High student fees, with or without the Blue and Gold program, foster a perception that a UC education is solely for the rich. Because of the low percentage of UC students from minority communities, a student of color who chooses to attend a UC may experience cultural isolation.
Engaging Education works to change the social climate for students of color. Their Student Initiated Outreach (SIO) programs connect prospective students of color with current UCSC students who can share their stories and inspire them to seek a college education. One program covers all travel expenses for accepted students of color to stay at UCSC for a weekend visit. This experience allows them to bond with current students of color, thereby setting up a community for students, should they accept the offer of admission.
Funding for SIO programs is limited. Aside from a modest allocation from the state, the programs are funded by a promise from the Chancellor to match fundraising accrued through a $5 student-approved campus fee distributed among the six UCSC resource centers. SIO receives only $1. The Chancellor originally promised to match these funds at a rate of $2 for every dollar raised. However, last year the Chancellor’s match dropped to $1.75 for every dollar. With $500 million in budget cuts projected, this number shows no signs of increasing anytime soon.
But it should.
Chancellor Blumenthal is himself a first-generation college graduate, and says the SIO programs are one of his favorite things about the campus. If Chancellor Blumenthal and UCSC are truly committed to providing equal access to a UC education for all residents of California, then he should let his actions speak for him and sign a written agreement to permanently match funds at the original promise of $2 per dollar raised by students.
It is no secret that the university is strapped for cash. We have all heard the doomsday predictions about student fees of $20,000. The decisions made in this moment will shape the direction of the university for years to come. When determining spending policies, administrators should preserve the values the UC was founded on, not just the bottom line.