October 20, 2000
by Richard C. Atkinson
At the University of California we are considering a supplement to our regular admissions process that could benefit thousands of young Californians for whom a UC education has never been more than a distant dream.
Here is how it would work. If your high school grades put you between the top 4% and the top 12.5% of your class, UC and a community college will admit you simultaneously and guarantee you a place at UC after you have successfully completed two years at a community college. UC and community college counselors will work with you to create a program of study, designed especially for you, that will prepare you for UC. We will help you obtain financial aid to eliminate any worries about affording four years of college; thanks to the expanded Cal Grant program just approved by the governor and the legislature, we know the support will be there when you need it. And by the time your high school graduation day arrives, chances are you will already know which UC campus will welcome you two years hence.
The Dual Admissions Plan will have no effect on UC's entering freshman class and will not displace any student who qualified for admission under the University's current policies. At present, students can become eligible for the University in two ways -either by ranking in the top 12.5% of California high school students statewide, or by ranking in the top 4% of their individual high schools. We are proposing the Dual Admissions Plan as an additional path to UC because we are convinced that it is necessary to sustain the promise of the 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education, which committed this state to offering the opportunity for a UC education to Californians of every background with the ability and ambition to succeed.
The Dual Admissions Plan would make UC an option for some 12,700 talented young people who currently do not qualify for UC admission when they graduate from high school. Many of these students live in low-income, minority, or rural communities. Whether they come from central Los Angeles or the San Joaquin Valley, they have one thing in common: through no fault of their own, their preparation often does not include the good schools, well-prepared teachers, up-to-date textbooks, well-equipped laboratories, and honors and Advanced Placement courses that many other young Californians take for granted. Yet despite the obstacles they and their communities face, these students have shown they can excel. Under the Dual Admissions Plan, they will have the opportunity to demonstrate that they can continue to excel by earning a place at UC through their performance during two years at a community college. At UC they will face the same demanding standards of preparation and achievement required of every transfer student.
Consistent with Proposition 209, the plan will not admit students based on race or ethni-city. But it will have a significant impact on minority representation at UC. A large number of students who would qualify under this plan are Latino, African American, and Native American. The Regents have made clear their commitment to diversity, and the Dual Admissions Plan would be a major step toward that goal.
Most important, we expect that the plan, combined with the expanded financial aid now available through the Cal Grant program, will bring far more community college students to UC. We know these students are of high quality; our analyses show that at the end of four years the academic performance of transfer students matches that of regular students. California, which used to be a national leader in the proportion of students transferring from community colleges to four-years institutions, now falls far below the national average. This is an educational deficit we urgently need to address in today's knowledge-based economy. UC and community college leaders have pledged themselves to increase the number of transfers 50 percent over the next five years, especially in underserved areas like the Central Valley. The Dual Admissions Plan is a practical step toward that goal.
This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the Master Plan-a time to ask ourselves whether we are doing enough to fulfill its promise of educational opportunity for every Californian who can benefit from it. For too many young people in the nation's richest state, to be born poor, to be a member of a minority group, or to come from a rural community is to be shut out from the most important wealth California has to offer-a university education. Our message to these students and their families is clear: the dream is within your reach.
Richard C. Atkinson is president of the University of California.