Minority Interest in Campus on the Rise
Numbers Show That Efforts to Reach Underrepresented Students Are Working
By Jeff Holeman, Public Affairs
The number of black and Latino students applying to Berkeley for Fall 2000 is higher than the number who applied before the end of affirmative action three years ago. In fact, the number of underrepresented applicants is the highest ever for the university, according to Richard Black, acting assistant vice chancellor for admission and enrollment.
"The underrepresented community has confidence that we have a good opportunity for them at Berkeley," Black said.
Systemwide, UC received 2.5 percent more freshman applicants than the previous year. Applications rose at all campuses. California freshman applications rose in each ethnic category except American Indian and white/other.
A surge in the high school student population, which is now being felt by the state's colleges and universities, may play a role in the higher numbers. But admissions officials believe the success of programs aimed at preparing underprivileged middle and high school students for UC admission also led to the increase in minority applications.
Programs such as Experience Berkeley ã which introduced 200 Los Angeles area students to the campus during four three-day visits ã are making inroads.
"We did a good job with this portion of the process," said Georgia Webb, the outreach manager for six counties in Southern California.
The true payoff will come when higher numbers of underrepresented students are offered admission and choose Berkeley, Webb said. That will make the outreach work most gratifying and offer positive proof that it works.
Although reserving her elation until that point, Webb said she is happy with the successes to date.
"I was certainly pleased that (the numbers) are up," she said. "The university puts a lot of resources into sending the message to underrepresented students that we would like them to come to the university."
The future success of university outreach programs will be affected by changes already under way. Initially focused on high school students, outreach now targets sixth graders, and local school districts are calling for expansion into the elementary schools. The university also conducts a vigorous community outreach program, where collaborative efforts with community organizations and academic incentive programs provide increased access to underepresented students.
And Berkeley has launched an initiative to streamline the structure of its outreach programs, improving communication and interaction among the various efforts, while maintaining and building upon their individuality.
Additionally, the state has made a greater financial commitment to outreach.
"One thing we're doing is being more aggressive and more comprehensive in our outreach programs," said Black. "We certainly hope that all this will lead to more minority applicants."
The university stepped up its efforts to recruit underrepresented minorities following the 1997 ban on affirmative action, which some worried would send a message that minorities were unwelcome at Berkeley.
But based on the latest application numbers, California's minority high school and community college students are getting a different message.
"SP1 or Prop 209 was not a statement that Berkeley was hostile to communities of color," Black said of the UC Regent's action and the statewide ban of affirmative action. "We offer outstanding opportunities for underrepresented minority students."
For Fall 2000, Berkeley received a record number of freshman applicants ã 32,696 ã and 4.4 percent more transfer applicants from California community colleges.
Among the freshman applicants, Latino students posted the most significant percentage increase ã rising 20 percent from 2,818 applications for fall 1999 to 3,382 for fall 2000. The number of black freshman applicants rose 9.7 percent, from 1,135 applications last year to 1,245 this year. American Indian freshman applications increased 7 percent from 157 to 168.
Asian American freshman applicants increased by 7.3 percent, from 11,552 to 12,390. Applications from freshmen who identified themselves as white or "other" increased 0.8 percent, rising from 11,290 to 11,385.
Transfer applications from California community colleges have increased 4.4 percent, from 7,494 last year to 7,824 for fall 2000. Increases were seen in applications from all groups, except for American Indian, which remained unchanged.