In 2007, 6,000 of California’s top high school seniors were guaranteed admission into the UC. In the coming years, that number may drop to a little over 2,000 students.
Members of the Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools, a UC-wide faculty committee, proposed a plan to reduce the number of guaranteed admissions to top high school seniors from 12 percent to four percent. While 4,000 fewer students may not seem like a lot out of 50,000-plus applicants, those remaining students are also the highest achievers and represent the most likely students to succeed in a UC school.
It is a sobering statistic when one considers what “12 percent” has meant in the context of UC’s over-100-year history. Former UC President Clark Kerr developed the California Master Plan for Education in 1960 as an attempt to provide all eligible students access to higher education. One of the basic tenets of the Master Plan is that the top 12 percent of graduating seniors are guaranteed a spot in a UC.
If UC President Robert Dynes, or his successor, moves forward with this proposal, it will show that the Master Plan is a pipe dream. That is not a message the university want to send when it is not even close to providing access to the students that truly need it. According to Fall 2005 admissions data, white students account for 38 percent of total fall admissions and have the highest number of non-first-generation university-bound students. At UC Santa Cruz, students of color account for less than half the undergraduate population compared to white students.
In an article published by the San Francisco Chronicle, committee member Mark Rashid believed the move would provide access to those who would not otherwise be visible to the UC.
“There are many students who are ineligible because of technical reasons,” he said. “One of the reasons for this proposal is to make these students visible to UC.”
In addition to reducing the number of guaranteed admits, the committee proposes to impose less stringent GPA requirements and do away with the SAT-II. That could widen the number of total applicants by nearly 30 percent.
Diluting the applicant pool in order to increase diversity may seem like the way to go, but it is by no means the answer to providing quality access to the UC. More thorough preparation and cultivating high school students with aspirations of going to college are much better solutions.
There were a little more than 2,000 Chicano/Latino students admitted to UCSC in 2005, and more than half were first-generation students. That means close to 1,000 students will be entering with little to no experience in a university setting. It is a similar situation for African-Americans and many other students of color.
UC administrators should focus on improving resources that are already there. Student Initiated Outreach programs at Santa Cruz are focused on retaining students of color, but they are limited in their breadth and scope. State-funded academic preparation programs help K-12 students reach the university, but they are severely underfunded.
Instead of lowering standards to create diversity, maybe the UC should raise the quality of education for students that need it the most.