Researchers Seek Reason for Drop in UCLA's Asian Enrollment

Times Staff Writer

Asian professors at UCLA have begun a study to determine whether a two-year decline in Asian freshman enrollment at the university resulted from discriminatory admissions policies.

Asian freshman enrollment has declined from 815 (19.7% of the class) in 1982-83 to 630 (15.9%) in 1984-85, according to figures supplied by the UCLA admissions office.

"There appears to be a lid on Asian enrollment," said Don T. Nakanishi, assistant professor of education at UCLA.

But Rae Lee Siporin, director of undergraduate admissions at UCLA, said that the university is not discriminating against Asian applicants.

"I do not know how to deal with that kind of paranoia," she said.

Nakanishi said that the professors suspect discrimination because the admission rate (percentage of applicants accepted) for Asian freshmen has dropped more than for any other group on campus, from 62.1% in 1982-83 to 40.7% in 1984-85.

By contrast, the admission rate for all freshman applications for the same period dropped from 62% to 53.9%. The admission rate for white freshmen, with whom Asians compare themselves academically, went down from 61.4% to 50%.

"The disparity between the admission rate for Asians and other groups goes against all other data involving qualifications for attending the university," Nakanishi said. "A higher percentage of Asian high school graduates than any other ethnic or racial group is eligible to attend the University of California system."

Looking for Reasons

The latest study by the California Postsecondary Education Commission shows that 26% of all 1983 Asian high school graduates were eligible for admission to the UC system, compared to 15.5% of white graduates, 4.9% of Latinos and 3.6% of blacks.

Nakanishi is one of about 10 Asian educators associated with the campus Asian American Study Center trying to find out the reasons for the decline in Asian student admissions to UCLA.

Lucie C. Cheng, professor of sociology and director of the center, said that most of the approximately 100 senior Asian faculty members at UCLA (out of a total of 1,827 senior faculty members) are "unaware of the admissions problem on campus."

"We have only started to go public in the last month," she said. "Our efforts up to now have been to get all the data."

This summer, Nakanishi is reviewing the student applications from 1983-84 to determine why Asian applicants were not admitted to UCLA and make his conclusions available to other educators concerned about the decline in Asian enrollment.

Siporin said that the decline in Asian and Caucasian enrollment resulted from the university's mandated affirmative action program to make room in the UC system for under-represented minority groups.

Outreach Services

The California Legislature has ordered the UC system to overcome ethnic, economic and gender under-representation in all of its campuses. And the Legislature later gave the UC system a time frame, according to Ed Apodaca, director of admissions and outreach services for the office of the president of the University of California. By 1990, the Legislature urged, the UC system should try to equalize the admission rates and the high school graduation rates of each ethnic group in the state.

"This is a goal of each campus," said Apodaca, who served on the committee that last February prepared the latest University of California Undergraduate Student Affirmative Action Five-Year Plan.

Under-represented groups at UCLA and the other campuses in the UC system are determined by comparing the percentage of high school graduates in each ethnic and racial group in the state to the enrollment percentage of each group at a particular campus.

By those calculations, Latinos, blacks and American Indians are under-represented at UCLA. Latinos constitute 17.9% of the state's high school graduates but only 8.7% of the students at UCLA. The figures for blacks are 8.9% of the high school graduates and 5.8% of UCLA students. Indians make up 0.7% of the high school graduates and 0.06% of UCLA students.

"The increase in those groups can only come from two groups, Caucasians and Asians," Siporin said.

Asians make up 6.2% of the high school graduates and Caucasians (excluding Latinos) make up 64.7%, according to preliminary figures for 1983 compiled by the California Postsecondary Education Commission.

Siporin also stressed that it has become "extremely difficult" to get into UCLA.

The university has been deluged with freshman applications in recent years--from 8,669 in 1981 to 10,550 in 1984--and has been forced to turn away large numbers of qualified applicants, including 3,200 in 1983-84 and 3,300 in 1984-85.

"We simply cannot accommodate all of the eligible students," Siporin said, "and we cannot increase the size of the campus, so everybody is angry. We have a limited pie and only so many ways to divide it."

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