Minority Enrollment Plummets Post-Prop. 209

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Continuing the trend that began with the passage of Proposition 209, the percentage of underrepresented minority freshmen who enrolled at UC Berkeley this fall decreased from last year, according to a university report released yesterday.

Since the UC Board of Regents' 1995 decision to eliminate the use of racial considerations in admissions, the university has seen a marked decline in the enrollment of black and Latino students, while Asian and white enrollment continues to climb.

This year's enrollment of underrepresented minorities remains significantly lower than in 1997, the last year before Proposition 209 was enacted. More than 20 percent of the freshman class of 1997 were underrepresented minority students, while this year's class includes only 13.2 percent.

In 1997, 257 black freshmen enrolled, while this year the number plummeted to 148. Enrollment figures showed a similar drop in Latino students from 472 to 320.

Many students blame the decrease in underrepresented minority student enrollment on the regents' decision and the passage of

Proposition 209 in 1996. Regent Ward Connerly, however, said an achievement gap between students was present before the board's decision.

"It's the same old, same old," he said. "When the University of California eliminated preferences based on race and ethnicity, and the voters of California ratified it, we knew at the time there is a huge achievement gap between white and Asian on one side, and black and Latino on the other, but we consciously knew we wanted to eliminate preferences and at the same time eliminate the achievement gap."

The report said black students make up approximately 3.9 percent of freshmen, up from last year's 3.5 percent. UC Berkeley graduate schools also saw a decrease in the percentage of new black students, from 3.1 percent last year to 2.7 percent.

There are ten fewer freshmen Latino students this year, resulting in a drop from 9.1 percent to 8.6 percent.

Meanwhile, white and Asian enrollment increased in this year's class, even though their percentage of total freshman enrollment decreased slightly. The disparity is a result of an overall increase in freshmen students this year, from 3,618 students to 3,735.

White students make up 30 percent of freshmen this year, down slightly from last year's 30.7 percent.

Similarly, Asian freshman enrollment dropped from 43.8 percent to 43.6 percent, while 46 more Asian students enrolled than last year.

In an attempt to diversify the campus's undergraduate population, Connerly said the university is working with underperforming schools and enacting a variety of outreach programs.

"It's not rocket science," Connerly said. "If you have a 240 base-point gap on the SATs between blacks and whites, and if you eliminate preferences based on race, there are going to be consequences."

He stressed, however, that the university did not create the achievement gap, and there need to be reforms and improvements in K-12 education.

"There is a gap - we didn't create the gap and someone at the K-12 level or the family has to do what is required to eliminate the gap," Connerly said. "It is not the University of California's responsibility to prepare kids for admittance to our university. We're trying to provide leadership to show what's required to get in, but you're blaming the messenger by blaming the UC."

The statistics also showed an increase in female undergraduates on campus. Female students currently represent 52.2 percent of the campus's total undergraduate population, the largest non-wartime percentage of female students at UC Berkeley ever. In addition, there are more women than men entering the university as new graduate students for the first time in history.


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