UC regents lament persistent low African-American enrollment

May 11, 2016

University of California regents on Wednesday expressed disappointment and exasperation over the continuing low numbers of African-American students enrolled at the 10-campus system while noting a significant increase in Latino students.

A report presented to the UC regents meeting in San Francisco showed that the percentage of African-Americans from California among freshmen was 4 percent in fall 2014, compared with 3 percent in 1999. Meanwhile, the share of Latino freshmen from the state doubled to 24 percent; the share of Asian Americans was 36 percent, compared with 37 percent 15 years earlier; and white Californian freshman had dropped to 22 percent from 38 percent.

Regent Eddie Island, who is African-American, said the data about black students “is indeed a sad moment” and noted that “there are impediments to the enrollment of African-Americans, and they have not been addressed.”

Regent Eloy Ortiz Oakley, who is also superintendent-president of Long Beach City College, said it was ironic that the data came from an annual “accountability” report even though, he said, there was “no accountability, no consequences” for the low numbers of black students. “We stomp our feet and lament how terrible the numbers are, but they are going to be the same next year unless we do something different, very different.”

UC officials said that they are partly hamstrung by Proposition 209, the voter-approved initiative that bans racial affirmative action in public college and university admissions. But they say that UC has been working hard on efforts that do not violate 209, such as recruiting and outreach to high schools and churches with large African-American populations and programs that encourage minority students who have been accepted to a UC campus to visit it and then enroll.  They note that much of the problem is in the K-12 schools, where more work remains on making students academically eligible for UC and that UC campuses are strengthening partnerships with high schools.

UC system president Janet Napolitano said the university must “assume this responsibility as part of our DNA and our essence.” She pledged to increase efforts to enroll more black students even in the environment of Proposition 209 and also to increase diversity among graduate students and faculty.

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