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Calif. Community Colleges Pave the Way for More Blacks on University Campuses

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By Antoinette Rodriguez
Special to the NNPA from the Sacramento Observer

(NNPA)—California’s community colleges are sending more students to public four-year universities, fueling an increase in the number of African-American students enrolling at University of California and California State university campuses.

According to figures reported by the University of California (UC) and the California State University (CSU) systems, the number of community college students transferring to the UC system increased by 9.6 percent and to CSU by 5.4 percent last year.

The number of Black students transferring to the UC system increased by 8.3 percent and by 5. 2 percent to the CSU system from the previous year, figures from the California Community Colleges indicate.

Transfers among Black, Hispanic and Native American students to UC campuses increased 18.8 percent last year, and the number of students from these groups transferring to CSU increased 7.9 percent last year.

“These increased student transfers are the result of years of combined efforts by all three systems at the state level, as well as significant work by the faculty and student services personnel at colleges and universities,” Thomas Nussbaum, chancellor of the California Community College, said in a statement.

The numbers at the flagship UC-Berkeley campus have also changed. This year Hispanics, Blacks and American Indians compose 15.6 percent of the fall freshmen class, up from 14.7 in fall 2001. In 1997, the year before the Prop. 209 ban on affirmative action in admissions went into effect, the percentage of underrepresented students was 21 percent.

This fall, UC’s new admissions process, called “Comprehensive Review,” went into effect. The process tries to consider students’ personal and academic challenges, as well as their academic records. Critics say the new policy lowers academic standards and encourages students to come up with hard-luck stories to impress application readers.

UC officials maintained they are not allowing race into the process and there was little evidence that happened this fall. Blacks, Hispanics and American Indians—the three groups considered underrepresented in the UC system—made up 19.1 percent of freshmen admissions for all eight undergraduate campuses.

That was the first time the entire UC system surpassed the 18.8 percent since the Fall of 1997, the last year of affirmative action in admissions, but was only a slight increase from Fall 2001 and follows a three-year upward trend.

“We try to help students in any way that we can,” said Carolyn Abrams, a counselor responsible for assisting transfer applicants at Consumnes River College.

The number of African-Americans attending Consumnes River and transferring to the UC and CSU systems is still not as high as Abrams would like it to be. The figures are expected to increase because Consumnes River and the two other colleges that make up the Los Rios District (Sacramento City and American River) are now offering college preparation programs to area high school students.

In the last academic year, Sacramento City was the only campus in the Los Rios district to increase its number of Black students transferring to UC and CSU campuses. The figure rose from 50 students in the 2000-2001 school year, to 60 in 2001-2002.

Another opportunity that the Los Rios District is offering to students to help insure an easy transfer to the college of their choice is the dual admission program. Right now the program is between campuses in the Los Rios District and UC-Davis.

The dual admission program allows a student, who was academically ineligible to attend UC-Davis in their freshman year, to be accepted to a Los Rios school and UC-Davis.

After meeting with a counselor they sign a contract that allows them to attend UC-Davis after completing designated courses at their community college. The students aren’t considered tranfers because they have already been accepted to the UC school.
Of the 108 California Community Colleges, the Los Rios District was chosen as the pilot for this program; other community colleges will begin to use it with UC campuses in 2004.

Cal State-Sacramento (CSUS) also recognizes the importance of community college students transferring to larger schools.

“On our Spring Sting day we bring a mini Sac-State to them. Complete with tents, counselors and a lot of information, we help local community college students transfer easily to Sac State,” said Barbara Sloan, associate director of outreach services at CSUS.

She also would like to see the number of African-American students transfer and complete a 4-year degree increase.
“There are not as many African-Americans completing four-year degrees and I think it’s due to a combination of challenging obstacles,” Sloan said. “Not just African-Americans, but other students as well come to college with shaky English and math skills. These students find college hard.”
To improve on “shaky skills,” Sloan said that CSUS is working with students as early as elementary school to prepare them for college.

“We give students a road map,” she said. “If they have a road map, they’ll know how to get to where they need to go.”

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