Proposal Aids Ambitious Students

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In a plan that may increase minority enrollment, UC President Richard Atkinson unveiled a proposal yesterday to bring thousands of additional students to the university in a partnership with community colleges.

Under the plan, students in the top 12.5 percent of each high school are eligible for UC admission if they satisfactorily complete two years of coursework at a community college. Many community colleges already have special programs for university-bound students, but under the new proposal the UC would track the students from the time they graduate from high school and encourage them to continue their education at a UC campus.

"It will send a clear signal to students all over the state, from urban and rural schools, from all ethnic groups and all socio-economic groups, that they have a path to the UC," Atkinson said in a statement.

Before the program can be implemented, however, it must potentially be approved by the UC Board of Regents and the system's faculty - pushing actual implementation to 2003 at the earliest, said UC spokesperson Terry Lightfoot.

He referred to the projected increase of new students over the next decade, dubbed "Tidal Wave II."

"I think it tries to find a way to accommodate the tidal wave," Lightfoot said. "It's opening up the doors of the UC a little bit wider."

Atkinson took the proposal Wednesday to the Academic Council, the steering committee of the faculty's Academic Senate. His ideas, senate members said, were warmly received.

"Senate committees are very sympathetic with efforts to really imaginatively engage in outreach," said Michael Cowan, a UC Santa Cruz professor and the academic senate chair. "The faculty on the whole is quite supportive of simply increasing the range of tools available."

By routing students to community colleges, some California residents not academically eligible for the UC system will get, in a sense, a second chance.

"It's designed to deal with those students who come from school districts where they would not be as competitive," Cowan said. "It's a limited number."

The state currently grants UC admission to the top 4 percent of each high school class and the top 12.5 percent statewide, meaning only students "at the margin" would be affected.

But in granting access to more students, the university also reaps the benefit of a different demographic than the typical freshman class. Although the plan does not specifically target minority students, it would embrace students from a more racially and economically diverse group than the UC's current admissions policy.

Depending on the wording of the plan, the regents may not have to ratify it, but Atkinson made it clear yesterday he wants the board's endorsement. One regent deeply involved in community colleges heralded the proposal.

"I'm certainly excited to see these things happen for community college students," said Regent Odessa Johnson, the dean of community education at Modesto Junior College.

If it passes, the plan brings the university closer to its goal of accepting more students from community colleges.

"This proposal will require thorough consideration and approval by our faculty," Atkinson said. "Implementation will present many challenges in outreach, admissions management and coordination of student services.

"However, the potential benefits justify grasping this chance to increase educational opportunities for more of the state's students," he added.


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