Editorial: UC Outreach Programs Deserve Better State Support



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In delivering budget cuts for outreach programs, California legislators often cite UC's responsibility to educate its students as its top priority.

But in the name of preserving the university's reputation as a leading research and academic institution, state legislators have targeted UC outreach programs as a first-resort cost-cutter for too long.

Critics have begun to question the effectiveness of UC outreach programs, pointing to a lack to statistical evidence that elucidates any positive impact.

But the effect of these outreach efforts should not be determined only five years after California residents voted to end affirmative action. Outreach programs are intended to increase underrepresented minority and disadvantaged student enrollment over several years.

Thankfully, UC budget cuts will not be drastic enough to stop UC Berkeley student-run programs like Raza and Black Recruitment and Retention Centers. Aside from reaching out to K-12 students, these programs also assist in retaining underrepresented minority students already at UC Berkeley.

But if the state continues to force UC outreach programs to absorb an unfair share of university budget cuts, campus retention centers may not have very many underrepresented minority students to retain.

Specifically, UC Berkeley's programs could face such a problem if these state budget cuts for outreach programs become a long-lasting trend.

One year after affirmative action was banned, UC Berkeley experienced a sharp decline in underrepresented minority admission, from 1,778 in 1997 to 717 in 1998. UC's other top-tier campus, UCLA, also experienced a similar decline.

While the UC system has returned to admitting as many underrepresented minority students as it did in 1997, UC Berkeley is still far from admitting the 1,778 such students it did before the affirmative action ban.

Clearly, there are thousands of minority students who are UC-eligible without the practice of affirmative action. But a low UC Berkeley admission rate reveals that university outreach efforts may not be adequately preparing underrepresented minority students for admission to UC Berkeley.

Excessive state budget cuts to these programs do nothing to help this problem. If the state wants to show it places a high level of priority on making UC accessible to all eligible students, it must reevaluate its financial support of outreach programs.

Outreach programs provide a crucial service in preparing California's underrepresented minority students for UC admission. State legislators need to recognize the impact of these services and stop relying on them to absorb disproportionately heavy budget cuts.

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