California's Minorities Still Lag In University Eligibility

EducationColleges and UniversitiesMinority GroupsUniversity of CaliforniaSchoolsHigh Schools

LOS ANGELES - Despite recent improvements, Latino and black students continue to lagbehind whites and Asians in becoming academically eligible to enterCalifornia's two public university systems, according to a state reportreleased Tuesday.

The study by the California PostsecondaryEducation Commission also showed that female high school seniors stilldo significantly better than males in taking required classes andearning grades and test scores that could gain them admission to theUniversity of California and California State University systems.

MurrayJ. Haberman, the commission's executive director, said he was pleasedby the improved eligibility rates for African Americans and Latinos inthe Cal State system. "Things are certainly moving in the rightdirection, although we still have a long way to go," he said.

Habermancriticized recent proposals to reduce or cap enrollment at Cal Stateand UC. "Exactly at the time that more students are preparingthemselves to go on to higher education, we are beginning to close thedoors on so many of these students," he said.

A student whowants to be admitted to either university first has to establish basiceligibility, then must typically meet separate, often tougher standardsfor the campuses at which they hope to enroll.

The studyreported that 22.5% of Latino high school graduates were eligible forCal State in 2007, up from 16% in 2003, when the last such study wasdone. For black students, Cal State eligibility went up to 24%, from18.6%.

Latino and black eligibility for UC's more rigorousstandards were 6.9% and 6.3%,respectively, last year, slightly higherthan four years ago.

White and Asian students did better inmeeting requirements for both universities. For Cal State, 37.1% ofwhite high school graduates were eligible last year and 50.9% ofAsians, both somewhat higher than in 2003. For UC, 14.6% of whitegraduates and 29.4% of Asians met course, grade and test scorerequirements; those rates were both slightly lower than in the previoussurvey.

Factors holding down eligibility rates for black andLatino students include shortages of the necessary courses andsometimes inadequate counseling at high schools in many low-income,often predominantly minority areas, Haberman said.

Overall,Cal State rates rose mainly because more students met new requirementsto take a second year of history and lab science, said Adrian Griffin,the commission's research director. Griffin presented the report at ameeting Tuesday in Sacramento.

"It takes time for schools to adjust their offerings, and it takes a while for the message to sink in for students," he said.

Griffin attributed the drops in white and Asian eligibility for UC to tighter course and grade requirements at the university.

Griffinalso suggested that California's high school exit exam, required since2006, cut out weaker students and may have affected eligibility ratessomewhat.

Continuing a gender imbalance at many U.S. colleges,more women than men were ready for California's state universities.About 15.3% of female high school graduates were eligible for UC,compared with 11.2% of males, and 37.6% of women for Cal State,compared with 27.3% for males.

On a sliding scale that alsoincludes standardized test scores, UC's minimum grade point average inrequired high school courses is now a 3.0 -- a B average on a 4-pointscale -- and Cal State's is a 2.0, or a C average.

Thoseminimums, however, do not guarantee a spot at the most popularcampuses, where much higher standards usually are enforced.

Theeligibility study, which surveyed 72,000 transcripts at 158 public highschools around California, found that UC and Cal State requirements arewell-aligned with their missions under the state's 1960 master plan forhigher education.

About 13.4% of California high schoolgraduates were found to be eligible for UC in 2007, near theuniversity's target under the master plan of drawing from the top 12.5%of the state's high school graduates. The Cal State eligibility ratewas 32.7%, very close to its 33.3% master plan guideline.

Previous commission surveys influenced university requirements.

For example, four years ago, a report found that many otherwiseUC-eligible students could not be accepted because they had not takenthe two subject exams required by UC in addition to the basic SAT orACT tests. Now, UC is on the verge of changes that, among other things,would drop the subject tests mandate.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times