UC regents attempt to diversify system

(U-WIRE) SAN FRANCISCO – In the first tweak of the admissions process since the ban on affirmative action practices, University of California regents voted Thursday to guarantee a UC spot to high school students who graduate in the top four percent of their class.

With Gov. Gray Davis in attendance, regents approved a plan designed to draw to the UC system more students from diverse socioeconomic classes and broader geographic distribution.

By admitting students based on their merit, regardless of what resources their high schools offer, the four-percent plan “levels the playing field” for high school students, supporters said.

“It rewards excellence,” Davis said. “It says we understand that some schools are better than others, but that it’s not the students’ fault. It doesn’t matter what school you attend, it matters how you do.”

The four-percent plan also allows the UC system to fulfill the state’s Master Plan, which calls on the university to draw the top 12.5 percent of all California high school students into the UC system. But according to a recent study by the California Post-Secondary Education Committee, only 11.1 percent of the students in California are eligible for the UC system.

The four-percent plan, which is expected to be implemented in 2001, was favored 13-1 by regents on the board’s education committee and was expected to sail to approval by the full board.

“I started out initially against it because it seemed to be going to the wrong direction,” regent Ward Connerly said. “But I’ve concluded that it’s a good idea. If this proposal can hold the promise of sending two to three students to the UC without a basketball scholarship, it’s worth it.”

But regents also criticized the plan. Some regents said they felt the promise could send the false notion to inadequate high schools that they do not need to improve.

“I expect those schools to get their top-four percent into the top-12.5 percent in the state,” Davis said.

Although the four-percent plan will increase the total number of under-represented minorities in the UC system, it is not expected to increase diversity in the university.

“It may not affect the overall color of the University of California,” the governor said. “But they will not come here because they are people of color, but because they deserve to come here.”

Concern also rose about the financial impact of the increased students on the university. But regents said it would not hurt to at least give the plan a try because the plan could provide an incentive for students to aim high.

“I’m a poster child (from) when we gave opportunities, we took a chance on young people,” said state Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, a voting member of the board.

-by Bernice Ng, Daily Californian

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