BERKELEY — Black and Hispanic admissions to the University of California increased in the first year of a program guaranteeing a spot for the top 4 percent of high school graduates.
UC officials say they don’t yet know if the new program was directly responsible, although it seems likely since the plan boosted applications from those groups.
Figures released Tuesday on the Fall 2001 freshman class continued a four-year trend of steady increases in black and Hispanic enrollment, following sharp drops immediately following the end of affirmative action.
Admissions of underrepresented minorities – blacks, Hispanics and American Indians – for the fall semester are up by about 17 percent, from 7,336 last year to 8,580. Proportionately, underrepresented minorities make up 18.6 percent of in-state freshman admissions, compared to 18.8 percent in 1997, the last year race and gender were taken into account.
Officials also don’t know how much of the rebound is due to changes in the state population and how much to recruitment and other outreach efforts.
Recent census figures show the Hispanic population in California grew 43 percent over the past decade and is projected to make up 33 percent of graduating high school seniors this year.
Hispanics comprise nearly 15 percent of UC in-state freshman admissions this fall.
No one group held the majority in admissions, although whites were the largest contingent, at about 38 percent, followed by Asians at 34 percent. Blacks made up 3 percent of admissions and American Indians .05 percent. About 2 percent of those admitted checked the “Other” box and nearly 4,000 – 8 percent of the grand total – declined to state race or ethnicity.
Census data show the state is about 47 percent white, 32 percent Hispanic, 11 percent Asian, 7 percent black and 1 percent American Indian.
Flagship Berkeley admitted 271 black students, a 43 percent drop from the 1997 total of 271. UC-Riverside, meanwhile, admitted 567 blacks this fall, an 89 percent increase over the 1997 total of 300.
“We still have a serious problem at selective UC campuses,” Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, an ex-officio regent, said in a statement.
On the other hand, Regent Ward Connerly, who wrote UC’s race-blind policies, saw the admissions figures as proving “conclusively that the university is achieving an integrated student body without the use of preferences based on race or ethnicity.”
Bustamante, who was not on the UC Board of Regents for the 1995 vote to drop affirmative action, is part of a growing faction that wants to see that vote rescinded, possibly as early as May. The repeal would not restore affirmative action, outlawed by the 1996 state ballot initiative Proposition 209. But it is viewed by proponents as an important gesture to minorities.
Underrepresented minorities admitted to UC are likely to be wooed by a number of private colleges; UC will get a clearer idea of their incoming class next month when responses are due.
Although race can’t be used as a factor, UC has implemented a number of other programs aimed at increasing enrollment of underrepresented minorities.
One such approach is the 4 percent plan championed by Gov. Gray Davis. That program promises eligibility to students who finish in the top 4 percent of their class, based on their performance in UC-required courses.
UC reported that 96 percent of students eligible under that plan have been admitted to one of the campuses of their choice. The remaining students will be offered a place elsewhere in the system.
Officials say they don’t know yet whether the program affected admissions, but believe it was responsible for the record number of applications this year.
UC estimates the program had the greatest effect in rural areas, increasing applications by 11 percent, as well as at urban schools, where applications increased nearly 6 percent. The program is believed to have increased applications from underrepresented minorities by 13.6 percent.
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