SAN FRANCISCO — University of California regents have endorsed a change in admissions policy they hope will increase enrollment, particularly of blacks and Hispanics, by blunting the disadvantage of being a high-achieving student in a low-performing school.
“There are still students in this state who need someone to believe in them,” said Tracy Davis, the student representative to the UC Board of Regents.
“What we are hopefully doing with this proposal is creating an opportunity, a glimmer of hope.”
The change, approved in committee Wednesday and expected to be approved by the full board Thursday, guarantees eligibility to students who finish in the top 12.5 percent of their senior class, although some will have to go to community college for the first two years.
The program, known as “dual admissions,” could increase enrollment of black, Hispanic and American Indian students, whose numbers declined sharply after regents dropped their old affirmative action programs in 1995.
The numbers have increased since then, but are still low at the ultra-competitive campuses of Berkeley and UCLA.
Dual admissions is the latest in a series of changes to UC admissions policy.
In May, regents voted to rescind their 1995 vote dropping affirmative action. The May vote was largely symbolic since voters in 1996 passed a similar ban on considering race in admissions, but was intended as a conciliatory message to minorities.
Meanwhile, UC President Richard Atkinson is proposing eliminating the SAT I as an admissions requirement, a test that Hispanic and black students tend to score lower on than whites and Asian Americans.
UC has not changed its overall admissions policy, which is to take the top 12.5 percent of all students statewide.
What’s different about the new eligibility guarantees is that they apply to individual schools, addressing the problem of students who go to poor schools that may be ill-equipped, overcrowded and lack advantages such as advanced college prep courses.
The new policy builds on a change implemented this year extending eligibility to the top 4 percent of students in individual high schools.
Students who fall between the top 4 percent and 12.5 percent of their class will have to go to community college for their first two years. Rankings are based on performance in UC-required courses.
Being eligible for UC is tantamount to being admitted, because UC has a long-standing commitment to accept all eligible students at one of its eight undergraduate campuses, although students may not necessarily get into the campus of their choice.
Regents made it a condition of approval that UC officials review several issues, including raising the minimum GPA the new admits will have to maintain.
It also makes sure there are resources to support the program and examining whether students in the top 4 percent should be allowed to take the community college route if they want.
The policy would be effective for students applying for fall 2003.
The proposal passed only after a three-hour discussion during which some regents worried the change would lower the quality of students or overtax UC’s resources.
“There’s just too many unknowns here,” said Regent Ward Connerly, who expressed reservations about the plan but ultimately voted for it.
Several regents said they thought the 2.4 GPA requirement, which is the existing minimum for all community college transfers, was too low, leading to the request that UC review that requirement.
The proposal, expected to primarily benefit rural and poor students, could reap between 1,500 and 3,500 new community college transfers by 2006.
UC officials estimate that up to 36 percent of the students eligible under dual admissions would be black, Hispanic or American Indian.
Those groups made up 18.6 percent of the fall 2001 freshman class; recent U.S. Census figures show they comprised about 40 percent of the state population.