Recommendations urge UC Berkeley to maintain diversity through K-12 partnerships, expanded recruitment

by Gretchen Kell

Berkeley -- To continue educating a student population that reflects California's diversity, the University of California at Berkeley will develop "pipeline partnerships" with K-12 schools and expand its outreach and recruitment efforts to underrepresented minority students.

These strategies are included in a UC Berkeley task force report entitled "Preserving Student Diversity" released today (Thursday, Feb. 29). They were detailed as part of a six-month update on the Berkeley Pledge given at a briefing by Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien.

The pledge is a statewide outreach program launched last September by Tien in partnership with Bay Area school superintendents. It promises California students that UC Berkeley will maintain a diverse student body despite the UC Regents' decision last July to end racial and ethnic preferences in admitting students to UC campuses.

In addition to the task force report, Tien said that progress on the pledge so far includes the development of a recruitment corps to encourage students of color to attend UC Berkeley and an online collaboration called the Interactive University.

Also underway is an ongoing funding effort. Chancellor Tien has committed $1 million in private funds to the pledge. An additional $45,415 in private gifts have been given specifically for the pledge, with an additional $42,408 more in promises made through the campus's own Charitable Campaign.

The first step in realizing the UC Berkeley/K-12 proposed pipeline partnerships was a Feb. 21-22 Berkeley Pledge conference.

Representatives from four school districts -- Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco and West Contra Costa County -- joined UC Berkeley in a roundtable discussion about how the campus can help underrepresented minority students get better prepared for university study.

In the coming weeks, an educational pipeline -- a limited number of elementary schools that feed into a junior high school that feeds into a high school -- will be chosen in each district. Each pipeline then will be strengthened by UC Berkeley outreach programs.

By boosting overall student performance at these targeted pipeline schools, the hope is that an increasing number of African American, Chicano/Latino and Native American students will be eligible for the UC system. The elimination of ethnic and racial preferences in undergraduate admission is expected to lower enrollment numbers at UC for these groups.

While UC Berkeley first will assist its neighboring school districts, a goal of the pipeline partnerships is to create a national model that could be expanded and replicated in the future.

In addition to the task force report and the conference, other significant progress on the pledge includes:

  • the Coalition for Excellence and Diversity in Mathematics, Science and Engineering, part of the pledge's recruitment corps effort. UC Berkeley has invited 600 top high school minority applicants to meet faculty, staff and students who will encourage them to attend Berkeley.

  • the UC Berkeley Summer Academy, a new collaboration among existing campus outreach programs for pre-college students.

  • the Interactive University, the technology arm of the Berkeley Pledge. It is seeking funding to develop curriculum modules for K-12 schools and an electronic mentoring project that would pair youngsters with UC Berkeley students.

    Increased recruitment of highly qualified African American, Chicano/Latino and Native American students is addressed throughout the new task force report. One suggested strategy is to enlarge UC Berkeley's recruitment staff in Southern California, where there are far more underrepresented minority students than in Northern California.

    "Currently," the report said, "one career staff person is responsible for recruiting prospective students in three Southern California counties that provide 45 percent of Berkeley's freshman class."

    Better recruitment of community college students finishing their lower division course work is another goal. Strategies include improving joint collaborations with community college staff including annual conferences, updates on academic matters and faculty exchanges on curricular enhancements.

    The report added that "although several efforts are presently in place to reach these students...Berkeley must strengthen its partnerships with community colleges by supporting transfer and admissions advising and encouraging targeted students to increase their academic performance."

    While UC Berkeley can enhance its immediate recruitment of underrepresented minority students in the high schools and community colleges, the task force report stressed that the campus ultimately relies on K-14, kindergarten through community college, to produce eligible and competitive student populations.

    "However," the report said, "for many reasons it is clear that K-14 cannot accomplish this task alone. In fact, no single institution can solve the problem. Nevertheless, Berkeley has enormous resources with which to address aspects of it, particularly within the schools."

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