Commentary: Diversity at the UC’s Falling Behind State Levels

It was no surprise earlier this week when the long awaited University of California Diversity Report came out and found that enrollment of minorities and underrepresented students have fallen well behind their statewide representation in the population as a whole.

Overall advances in UC diversity in the 1980s and early 1990s have reversed direction, the report states, and any small gains have been concentrated at a few campuses. Women and non-Asian minorities continue to have particularly low levels of representation in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, the report noted.

It is also no surprise that the board of Regents which met this week on the UC Davis campus would embrace this study and vow to take aggressive and concrete steps to address the diversity crisis facing the premier public university system in the world.

One of the most stunning bits of information that emerged from this discussion was that only 30 percent of high schools offer the A-G courses–core curriculum–that are required for UC admissions.

Frankly that piece of information alone should be headline grabbing, alarming information. And folks, as you might guess, that has nothing at all to do with UC. That has nothing to do with Proposition 209. That is an indictment of our public school system.

In light of that finding it was also refreshing to hear that California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez who serves as an ex-officio member, urged the board not to lower the bar for academic requirements to attend a UC campus but rather find solutions that will increase diversity while at the same time maintaining the current levels of standards.

Another regent, Sherry Lansing, suggested partnering with the CSU system to create outreach programs to encourage more high schools to offer the A-G courses (the CSU system also requires A-G courses).

Embattled UC President Robert Dynes forcefully said:

“I reject the idea that we can’t change K-12. We can. No one else will.”

It was remarkable to me on the other hand to read the comments from Oiyan Poon, the President of the University of California Student Association.

In her comments to UC Regents before they voted to support the recommendations of the study group recommendations she said among other things:

“In order to begin addressing this crisis, students ask that Regents 1) ensure that academic preparation programs receive at least $33 million for the 2008-2009 school year; 2) eliminate or at least decrease the use of SAT I, SAT II and GRE scores as eligibility requirements; and 3) reevaluate admissions eligibility requirements, especially A-G required courses.”

I have no problem with the first recommendation. I’ve long believed that admissions process was too reliant on standardized tests, but I certainly cannot support the third recommendation there. I do not believe the solution to this problem is to water down the admissions process, I think it is to bring the high schools across this state up to the level that is needed for their students to attend UC and CSU.

We wish to put this on the UC Regents, and they certainly bear responsibility here, but to me this is an indictment on the state legislature and the state as a whole. Students should be protesting next week in front of the state Capital demanding that the legislature mandate and fund college prep programs at all high schools across the state.

The UC Regents have acknowledged the problem that exists and that everyone can see. It is always said of course that the first step to solving a problem, is to acknowledge that one exists. However, in this case, the problem itself is going to take a tremendous amount of political will across jurisdictions. If however, UC and CSU are willing to partner to take the lead on this, perhaps it is possible that things can be improved. If not, then the UC system will become ever more of an elite institution and move away from the vision of public higher education that has embodied it for so long.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

Author

  • David Greenwald

    Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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Students

88 comments

  1. The problem is elementary schools that move students on to the next grade without learning. This shouldn’t be a UC failing, but UC might be able to help if given funding to help the failing elementary schools.

    If UC would give tuition waivers to students in return for teaching at failing elementary schools, the poor students could be helped. But what if this effort does not produce UC qualified students? Should UC be destroyed to allow students who can’t read and comprehend to be given a UC degree?

    The last numbers I saw for Cal State Hayward were that only 30% of the students graduating with teaching credential were able to pass a CBEST test, a test for 8th grade reading and math abilities. How would it help anyone to give these students a UC degree?

  2. The problem is elementary schools that move students on to the next grade without learning. This shouldn’t be a UC failing, but UC might be able to help if given funding to help the failing elementary schools.

    If UC would give tuition waivers to students in return for teaching at failing elementary schools, the poor students could be helped. But what if this effort does not produce UC qualified students? Should UC be destroyed to allow students who can’t read and comprehend to be given a UC degree?

    The last numbers I saw for Cal State Hayward were that only 30% of the students graduating with teaching credential were able to pass a CBEST test, a test for 8th grade reading and math abilities. How would it help anyone to give these students a UC degree?

  3. The problem is elementary schools that move students on to the next grade without learning. This shouldn’t be a UC failing, but UC might be able to help if given funding to help the failing elementary schools.

    If UC would give tuition waivers to students in return for teaching at failing elementary schools, the poor students could be helped. But what if this effort does not produce UC qualified students? Should UC be destroyed to allow students who can’t read and comprehend to be given a UC degree?

    The last numbers I saw for Cal State Hayward were that only 30% of the students graduating with teaching credential were able to pass a CBEST test, a test for 8th grade reading and math abilities. How would it help anyone to give these students a UC degree?

  4. The problem is elementary schools that move students on to the next grade without learning. This shouldn’t be a UC failing, but UC might be able to help if given funding to help the failing elementary schools.

    If UC would give tuition waivers to students in return for teaching at failing elementary schools, the poor students could be helped. But what if this effort does not produce UC qualified students? Should UC be destroyed to allow students who can’t read and comprehend to be given a UC degree?

    The last numbers I saw for Cal State Hayward were that only 30% of the students graduating with teaching credential were able to pass a CBEST test, a test for 8th grade reading and math abilities. How would it help anyone to give these students a UC degree?

  5. It isn’t really stunning that many high schools don’t offer the full A-G required courses. DSIS doesn’t. It’s expected that students interested in UC will fill in the gaps at community college if necessary.
    Here are the A-G:
    Required “A-G” Courses

    a History/Social Science – 2 years required

    b English – 4 years required

    c Mathematics – 3 years required, 4 years recommended

    d Laboratory Science – 2 years required, 3 years recommended

    e Language Other than English – 2 years required, 3 years recommended

    f Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) – 1 year required

    g College-Preparatory Electives – 1 year required

    I see nothing wrong with UC modifying these. Why have a VPA requirement for UC? Why two years of foreign language? These aren’t what we think of as core curriculum. Flexibility on what is accepted as “college-preparatory electives” might enable more students to apply.

  6. It isn’t really stunning that many high schools don’t offer the full A-G required courses. DSIS doesn’t. It’s expected that students interested in UC will fill in the gaps at community college if necessary.
    Here are the A-G:
    Required “A-G” Courses

    a History/Social Science – 2 years required

    b English – 4 years required

    c Mathematics – 3 years required, 4 years recommended

    d Laboratory Science – 2 years required, 3 years recommended

    e Language Other than English – 2 years required, 3 years recommended

    f Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) – 1 year required

    g College-Preparatory Electives – 1 year required

    I see nothing wrong with UC modifying these. Why have a VPA requirement for UC? Why two years of foreign language? These aren’t what we think of as core curriculum. Flexibility on what is accepted as “college-preparatory electives” might enable more students to apply.

  7. It isn’t really stunning that many high schools don’t offer the full A-G required courses. DSIS doesn’t. It’s expected that students interested in UC will fill in the gaps at community college if necessary.
    Here are the A-G:
    Required “A-G” Courses

    a History/Social Science – 2 years required

    b English – 4 years required

    c Mathematics – 3 years required, 4 years recommended

    d Laboratory Science – 2 years required, 3 years recommended

    e Language Other than English – 2 years required, 3 years recommended

    f Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) – 1 year required

    g College-Preparatory Electives – 1 year required

    I see nothing wrong with UC modifying these. Why have a VPA requirement for UC? Why two years of foreign language? These aren’t what we think of as core curriculum. Flexibility on what is accepted as “college-preparatory electives” might enable more students to apply.

  8. It isn’t really stunning that many high schools don’t offer the full A-G required courses. DSIS doesn’t. It’s expected that students interested in UC will fill in the gaps at community college if necessary.
    Here are the A-G:
    Required “A-G” Courses

    a History/Social Science – 2 years required

    b English – 4 years required

    c Mathematics – 3 years required, 4 years recommended

    d Laboratory Science – 2 years required, 3 years recommended

    e Language Other than English – 2 years required, 3 years recommended

    f Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) – 1 year required

    g College-Preparatory Electives – 1 year required

    I see nothing wrong with UC modifying these. Why have a VPA requirement for UC? Why two years of foreign language? These aren’t what we think of as core curriculum. Flexibility on what is accepted as “college-preparatory electives” might enable more students to apply.

  9. The biggest problem — which is becoming more severe — is the steep increase in the cost of attending UC’s. I find it quite amazing that UC’s want to spend oodles of money on college prep outreach, while the costs for students to attend UC’s increase at more than double the rate of inflation every year. There is no doubt that the cost increases are disproportionately affecting underrepresented minorities. Yes, there are also serious problems in K-12 education in this state. Both of these problems need to be addressed.

  10. The biggest problem — which is becoming more severe — is the steep increase in the cost of attending UC’s. I find it quite amazing that UC’s want to spend oodles of money on college prep outreach, while the costs for students to attend UC’s increase at more than double the rate of inflation every year. There is no doubt that the cost increases are disproportionately affecting underrepresented minorities. Yes, there are also serious problems in K-12 education in this state. Both of these problems need to be addressed.

  11. The biggest problem — which is becoming more severe — is the steep increase in the cost of attending UC’s. I find it quite amazing that UC’s want to spend oodles of money on college prep outreach, while the costs for students to attend UC’s increase at more than double the rate of inflation every year. There is no doubt that the cost increases are disproportionately affecting underrepresented minorities. Yes, there are also serious problems in K-12 education in this state. Both of these problems need to be addressed.

  12. The biggest problem — which is becoming more severe — is the steep increase in the cost of attending UC’s. I find it quite amazing that UC’s want to spend oodles of money on college prep outreach, while the costs for students to attend UC’s increase at more than double the rate of inflation every year. There is no doubt that the cost increases are disproportionately affecting underrepresented minorities. Yes, there are also serious problems in K-12 education in this state. Both of these problems need to be addressed.

  13. As usual Greenwald has left out the very first building block in the equation, THE PARENT(S). Where are the parents of these kids who are under represented? The parent is the primary force behind the success of a child.
    To put the blame on the school system and the U.C. system is again another load of crap from the Greenwalds davis vanguard. Believe it or not the state’s taxpayers are not only taxed beyond what is reasonable and the STATE aka the taxpayer is almost broke here in California. You can blame the system, but when you hear a loud pop it will be the davis vanguard pulling it’s collective head out of it’s ass and seeing where the real truth lies.

  14. As usual Greenwald has left out the very first building block in the equation, THE PARENT(S). Where are the parents of these kids who are under represented? The parent is the primary force behind the success of a child.
    To put the blame on the school system and the U.C. system is again another load of crap from the Greenwalds davis vanguard. Believe it or not the state’s taxpayers are not only taxed beyond what is reasonable and the STATE aka the taxpayer is almost broke here in California. You can blame the system, but when you hear a loud pop it will be the davis vanguard pulling it’s collective head out of it’s ass and seeing where the real truth lies.

  15. As usual Greenwald has left out the very first building block in the equation, THE PARENT(S). Where are the parents of these kids who are under represented? The parent is the primary force behind the success of a child.
    To put the blame on the school system and the U.C. system is again another load of crap from the Greenwalds davis vanguard. Believe it or not the state’s taxpayers are not only taxed beyond what is reasonable and the STATE aka the taxpayer is almost broke here in California. You can blame the system, but when you hear a loud pop it will be the davis vanguard pulling it’s collective head out of it’s ass and seeing where the real truth lies.

  16. As usual Greenwald has left out the very first building block in the equation, THE PARENT(S). Where are the parents of these kids who are under represented? The parent is the primary force behind the success of a child.
    To put the blame on the school system and the U.C. system is again another load of crap from the Greenwalds davis vanguard. Believe it or not the state’s taxpayers are not only taxed beyond what is reasonable and the STATE aka the taxpayer is almost broke here in California. You can blame the system, but when you hear a loud pop it will be the davis vanguard pulling it’s collective head out of it’s ass and seeing where the real truth lies.

  17. Actually anon, a student’s economic background is the number one determinant of academic success.

    I would say its a failure of the system if only 30% of high schools actually have the courses required to get students into a UC.

    I also do not believe the vanguard is advocating a tax increase. There is lots of money in our education system, but it is not being used efficiently. Again, a systemic problem.

    And you even point out the…that while the parents are ultimately responsible for the child’s success…the average California is broke, or specifically makes $36K a year and has little to no health insurance or savings. The children of these families probably have jobs which affect their grade point average and the high school they attend does not prepare them for college. There is no one solution, but fixing the quality of high school education is a good start.

    But I am glad that you like to tell people to pull their heads out of their asses anonymously. Must be cool to be you.

  18. Actually anon, a student’s economic background is the number one determinant of academic success.

    I would say its a failure of the system if only 30% of high schools actually have the courses required to get students into a UC.

    I also do not believe the vanguard is advocating a tax increase. There is lots of money in our education system, but it is not being used efficiently. Again, a systemic problem.

    And you even point out the…that while the parents are ultimately responsible for the child’s success…the average California is broke, or specifically makes $36K a year and has little to no health insurance or savings. The children of these families probably have jobs which affect their grade point average and the high school they attend does not prepare them for college. There is no one solution, but fixing the quality of high school education is a good start.

    But I am glad that you like to tell people to pull their heads out of their asses anonymously. Must be cool to be you.

  19. Actually anon, a student’s economic background is the number one determinant of academic success.

    I would say its a failure of the system if only 30% of high schools actually have the courses required to get students into a UC.

    I also do not believe the vanguard is advocating a tax increase. There is lots of money in our education system, but it is not being used efficiently. Again, a systemic problem.

    And you even point out the…that while the parents are ultimately responsible for the child’s success…the average California is broke, or specifically makes $36K a year and has little to no health insurance or savings. The children of these families probably have jobs which affect their grade point average and the high school they attend does not prepare them for college. There is no one solution, but fixing the quality of high school education is a good start.

    But I am glad that you like to tell people to pull their heads out of their asses anonymously. Must be cool to be you.

  20. Actually anon, a student’s economic background is the number one determinant of academic success.

    I would say its a failure of the system if only 30% of high schools actually have the courses required to get students into a UC.

    I also do not believe the vanguard is advocating a tax increase. There is lots of money in our education system, but it is not being used efficiently. Again, a systemic problem.

    And you even point out the…that while the parents are ultimately responsible for the child’s success…the average California is broke, or specifically makes $36K a year and has little to no health insurance or savings. The children of these families probably have jobs which affect their grade point average and the high school they attend does not prepare them for college. There is no one solution, but fixing the quality of high school education is a good start.

    But I am glad that you like to tell people to pull their heads out of their asses anonymously. Must be cool to be you.

  21. “As usual Greenwald has left out the very first building block in the equation, THE PARENT(S).”

    Apparently the report left it out as well, not that you read it.

    BTW, when were the other times when Greenwald has left parents out of the equation.

  22. “As usual Greenwald has left out the very first building block in the equation, THE PARENT(S).”

    Apparently the report left it out as well, not that you read it.

    BTW, when were the other times when Greenwald has left parents out of the equation.

  23. “As usual Greenwald has left out the very first building block in the equation, THE PARENT(S).”

    Apparently the report left it out as well, not that you read it.

    BTW, when were the other times when Greenwald has left parents out of the equation.

  24. “As usual Greenwald has left out the very first building block in the equation, THE PARENT(S).”

    Apparently the report left it out as well, not that you read it.

    BTW, when were the other times when Greenwald has left parents out of the equation.

  25. the lack of diversity is a symptom of systemic problems that run society-wide. tooling with the admissions standards applies a thin layer of paint over a serious structural crack in the foundation.

    tuition should be free in exchange for firm academic standards. public schools at the primary and secondary level should all offer the minimum standard for UC admission to every student in the state. the state should build new campuses at a rate that matches the rate of primary student growth. this state squanders its human resources in a manner far more profligate than any bureaucracy – public or corporate – has ever wasted money. it is a deep shame and an embarassment that our once-great public educational system has become a de facto private school for the affluent in well-funded school dictricts.

    the regents have made a bad situation far worse with their tuition hikes, but you are correct that they are far from the only cause at work here.