In the University of California’s first major admissions-policy decision since its board of regents voted in 1995 to end race-based admissions, board members have approved a plan to admit the top 4 percent of students in every graduating high school class in the state.
This month’s decision, which will be phased in beginning with students who graduate in 2001, is expected to make nearly 3,600 additional students eligible for admission to the prestigious eight-campus university. Some 28,000 students will be eligible for admission to the system this year.
Approved by all but one of the board’s 26 members during a meeting March 19, the plan opens up a “new path of eligibility” that will particularly benefit students from rural and urban high schools with less-than-stellar reputations, said Terry Lightfoot, a spokesman for the university system.
Students who are eligible under the new criteria will be approved for admission to the system as a whole, but still will have to meet the qualifications set by the individual campuses, including the ultra-competitive UC campuses in Berkeley and Los Angeles.
The new criteria will likely boost by a small percentage the racial and ethnic diversity of the 170,000-student university system. Twenty-five percent of the newly eligible students are expected to be Hispanic or black, compared with roughly 12 percent of those who currently qualify for admission.
The plan is a step toward “raising the bar of opportunity for kids who would otherwise not have it,” said Speaker of the Assembly Antonio R. Villaraigosa, a Democrat who serves on the board of regents.
Still, longtime supporters of the plan, including Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, emphasize that the plan will not change the university’s race-blind admissions policy, nor will it displace any students who are currently eligible.
The plan “will say to every student in every high school, keep dreaming big dreams, keep working hard,” Mr. Davis, a regent by virtue of his office, said in a statement. “If you really excel, we will reward your effort by giving you a place at one of the eight UC campuses.”
Admissions officers will measure class rank based on the college-preparatory courses required for admission, and all applicants will still be required to take the SAT.
A version of this article appeared in the March 31, 1999 edition of Education Week as Calif. To Guarantee Top Graduates Entry to UC System