State Senate seeks ways to open UC doors
Committee hearing on campus looks at access for disadvantaged; campus officials testify

By Adam Parker and Michelle Moskowitz, Public Affairs

24 October 2001 | How can California’s institutions of higher education provide better opportunities “for those who aren’t born with a silver spoon in their mouth, or a computer in their bedroom” asked State Senator Richard Alarcón at a public hearing on campus Oct. 15.

Alarcón (D-San Fernando) chairs the Senate Select Committee on College and University Admissions and Outreach. He brought the committee to Berkeley in order to hear testimony on programs that help students from economically disadvantaged communities graduate from college and enroll in graduate and professional schools.

Chancellor Berdahl opened the hearing with an overview of how, despite legal and fiscal constraints, the Berkeley campus is increasing access to underserved communities in the state.

Speakers from California schools and educational organizations then addressed such topics as the importance of faculty mentorship, the current state of the medical school admissions process, and the narrowing of the pipeline for minority students at each step of the educational process.

Representing the University of California Office of the President, Dennis Galligani, associate bice president for student academic services, noted that UC has been particularly effective in keeping students from dropping out of school. Despite such success, the university recognizes that it must continue to improve not only the academic, but also the social environment for minority students.

“Half the reason students drop out is because their social needs are not met,” said Galligani. The University is working to address those needs, he said, citing areas in which UC hopes to expand — among them day care, ethnically sensitive student activities and advisors, and residential learning communities.

Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Affairs Genaro Padilla told the committee that students who develop personal relationships with faculty, particularly through academic advising and undergraduate research projects, are more likely to graduate from college and enroll in graduate and professional schools. Padilla highlighted the George A. Miller Scholars Program and the Biology Scholars Program as examples of Berkeley’s successful retention efforts.

Alarcón expressed his appreciation for the progress being made atBerkeley and encouraged the campus to build on these efforts. “What I’m hearing is great, but we still have to do better.”

He suggested that the state fund an information clearinghouse that would allow educators and lawmakers to evaluate which programs are most effective in promoting retention and educational advancement.

The committee plans to issue a report in January following hearings at UCLA and CSU Northridge.


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