SAN FRANCISCO — The University of California is expanding admissions, guaranteeing a spot to students who graduate in the top 12.5 percent of their high school class under a program that will send some to community college first.
The move, expected to bring in more poor and rural students and help reverse a decline in enrollment of black, Hispanic and American Indian students at UC’s top campuses, was approved 14-3 by the UC Board of Regents on Thursday.
It expands on a previous admissions change, implemented this year, guaranteeing eligibility to students who graduate in the top 4 percent of their class, based on grades in UC-required courses. Students who fall between 4 percent and 12.5 percent will have to go to community college for their first two years.
The program, known as “dual admissions” and effective for fall 2003, “sends a signal to top-performing students, particularly those in disadvantaged high schools, that they have a clear path to a UC degree,” UC President Richard C. Atkinson said in a statement.
At the American Association of Community Colleges in Washington, D.C., group president George Boggs enthusiastically endorsed the plan as a “great proposal.”
“It gives students the assurance that they can get into UC by coming into the community college and doing well in the community college and that’s exactly what we need,” he said.
Boggs said he was aware of at least one similar transfer guarantee agreement between an individual university and community college, but “I don’t know of another state that has made that kind of guarantee.”
UC has not changed its overall admissions policy, which is to draw from the top 12.5 percent of all students statewide. Because of the varying quality of high schools, that means good schools send a lot of students to UC while poor schools send few or none.
The new eligibility guarantees apply to individual schools in an effort to blunt the disadvantage of going to a school that may be ill-equipped, overcrowded and lack advanced college prep courses, which carry extra credit.
Eligibility is tantamount to admission, since UC promises to admit all eligible students who want to attend one of its eight undergraduate campuses.
Going to community college first is intended to make sure students are able to maintain UC’s academic standards.
Regents made it a condition of approval that UC faculty review raising the minimum 2.4 GPA the new admits must maintain in community college, make sure there are resources to support the students and examine whether students in the top 4 percent should be allowed to take the community college route if they want.
Boggs said it’s a mistake to think that community college students can’t make it in four-year schools. In fact, he said, students at a two-year school have some advantages because they generally are in smaller classes taught by professors, rather than the large sessions led by teaching assistants that are typical in big universities.
“There’s a very focused effort on helping the students to be successful,” he said.
The proposal 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.
After race-blind admissions were instituted in 1998, enrollment of blacks, Hispanics and American Indians dropped sharply. The numbers have increased since then, but are still below 1997 levels at the ultra-competitive campuses of Berkeley and UCLA.