Above, UC President Janet Napolitano at a media briefing organized by New America Media on Sept. 28. Photo by Rudy Cardoso-Peraza
The University of California has demonstrated that it is making progress in broadening the scope of diversity in its student body. As the application filing period begins next month for all UC campuses, the Fall 2016 class represents the most diverse class in the system’s history.
UC President Janet Napolitano said that the big push during her tenure has been to reach out to underrepresented communities across the state and inform them of opportunities. The calculated measures of outreach, tuition relief, and easing of financial aid applications have all contributed to various record-breaking outcomes.
“[For] those students who qualify academically, the doors are wide open,” said Napolitano on Sept. 28 to a Los Angeles media briefing organized by New America Media. The discussion highlighted the UC’s efforts to expand diversity in enrollment and financial aid opportunities.
According to a 116-page report by the California State Auditor, an increase of 16,000 nonresident students in UC campuses had disenfranchised California students. But steps to enroll more Californians have been taken by the UC.
In-state enrollment has increased with 5,000 additional students enrolled this fall, which according to the audit, was a move required by the legislature as a condition of receiving $25 million in state funds. “Our intent is to add another 2,500 next year, and 2,500 the year after,” said Napolitano. “We’re building a lot of housing and hiring faculty to ensure students get the quality of education they deserve.”
37 percent of all incoming freshman are from historically underrepresented groups, with an increase in Latino and African-American student populations, according to UC statistics. 2016 saw 4,817 more Latino admits and 752 more African-Americans compared to 2014.
There are more Latinos than white students enrolled in this year’s incoming freshmen class – with Latinos making up 32.3 percent and whites making up 25.1 percent. According to Napolitano, 42 percent of the UC’s undergraduate students are the first in their families to receive higher education and at the best public universities in the world.
Since the 1996 passage of Proposition 209 — which banned California colleges and universities from discriminating on the basis of race, sex, or ethnicity — this is the first year that there has been a considerable increase in the diversity of both applications and admissions. The number of African-American first year students jumped by 30.6 percent, a total of 4.9 percent of the student population.
55 percent of in-state students who come from families that make less than $80,000 a year pay no tuition or fees but are required to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to receive financial support, in a program known as the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan. Those that do have debt, on average have $20,000 of debt for four years of undergraduate studies. It also helps that 2016 was the sixth consecutive year with no increases for in-state tuition.
Currently, the cost for one year of tuition for California residents is $12,294 whereas nonresidents pay an additional $26,682, according to the UC admissions site.
Students who are California residents and who are enrolled at The California State University (CSU), on the other hand, pay a tuition fee of $5,472 per academic year while nonresidents pay an additional $248 per quarter unit.
“We will work with students and families to make sure that [the UC system] is accessible and affordable to them,” said Napolitano.
Outreach efforts have also helped increase diversity in the student population. Achieve UC was designed to connect UC campus leaders with low-income high school students in the hopes of inspiring them to enter UC colleges and inform them of the resources to enroll. UC leaders have leveraged the program to visit target high schools, hoping to boost college acceptance rates from underrepresented communities.
The UC system will also receive its highest amount of community college transfers in its history, with a transfer increase of 14.1 percent.
In a move that will likely buoy the UC system’s momentum, the process to apply for financial aid has been simplified with the time window to submit FAFSA forms expanding as well. To ease the process, a prior year’s tax returns can now be used to fill out future FAFSA applications, Napolitano said.
At the media briefing, Napolitano lamented how certain constraints, including lack of funds, faculty, and staff, didn’t allow for more than 5,000 additional students to be admitted this fall to UC campuses.
“It would be nice if the legislature would reinvest in their universities, and I say that for Cal States as well,” said Napolitano. “It seems to me that this is one of the smartest ways to spend the state’s tax dollars.”
VoiceWaves asked Napolitano about expanding faculty diversity. She said that the challenge stems from the lack of diversity in the selection pool but that, to assuage the issue, the UC has developed partnerships to foster their own pools.
“We have now a linkage with the historic black colleges and universities, where they come do graduate research [and their post-doc] at UC. That’s a source of faculty hires,” Napolitano said.
She added that similar programs and trainings are receiving financial support from the state of California.