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UCLA sees an increase in black student admissions

Times Staff Writers

UCLA has offered admission for the fall to 392 African American students, up from the 249 who were offered a place in the current freshman class, officials announced Thursday.

That part of the University of California’s detailed annual release on freshman admissions was greeted with satisfaction and a measure of relief by UCLA administrators and others who had expressed concern about declining numbers of black students on the Westwood campus. The number reached a crisis last fall, when only about 100 black freshmen enrolled -- or about 2% of a class of more than 4,800.

Overall, 57,318 Californians were offered admission to at least one UC campus; 11,837 students were accepted to UCLA.

Acting UCLA Chancellor Norman Abrams, who pushed the campus toward implementing a more “holistic” admissions process for the fall, partly in response to the low African American numbers, said Thursday he was pleased.

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“It was heartening to see that the African American numbers and the proportion of underrepresented minorities in general went up this year,” Abrams said. “To see that our academic numbers have also risen somewhat is also a very good sign.”

Abrams said UCLA officials would study the admissions data to learn the reasons for the changes this year, which also included an increase in Latino and white freshman admissions and a drop in that for Asians.

He said some of the shifts might be year-to-year fluctuations and others could be the result of the new admissions system, which UCLA officials have said is fairer for all applicants because it allows their achievements to be viewed in context.

But the chancellor emphasized that UCLA had not -- and under California law could not -- take race into account in its admissions. Proposition 209, a 1996 voter-approved initiative, bars the state’s public institutions from considering race in admissions or employment decisions.

Ward Connerly, the conservative former UC regent and architect of Proposition 209, was skeptical.

“One of three things must be happening,” Connerly said Thursday. “Black kids have either gotten extremely smart or extremely competitive in a way they weren’t five or six years ago, or there’s been a deliberate, carefully orchestrated effort by a lot of admissions people to conspire to increase those numbers, or they’ve found a proxy for race.”

But about a dozen members of a community coalition that has pushed UCLA for change held a news conference Thursday to praise the school and its leaders.

“We are characterizing this as a positive first step,” said Akili, a community activist and member of the Alliance for Equal Opportunity in Education, a consortium of leaders from African American churches, civil rights organizations and UCLA student and alumni groups that formed after the enrollment numbers were released last June.

Akili, who uses one name, said the group planned to press UC officials to adopt UCLA’s holistic admissions system at all campuses. Currently, only UCLA and UC Berkeley use the process, which allows admissions readers to view all information about a student at the same time.

Overall, the numbers released by UCLA on Thursday showed that the proportion of Latino, African American and Native American freshmen accepted for the fall was 16.6%, up from 14.4% for current freshmen.

Along with the percentage of black students, which went up from 2.1% a year ago to 3.4% now, the proportions of Latino and white students also rose for the newly admitted class. Latinos make up 12.8% (1,470 students) of the fall class, up from 11.9% (1,403 students) this year. The number of white students was the same both years: 3,791, although officials said that the figure represented a marginally higher percentage (33%) of 2007’s slightly smaller admitted class.

The proportion of Asian and Asian American students offered UCLA admission dropped slightly, from 45.6% for current freshmen -- or 5,390 students -- to 43.1%, or 4,956 students -- for the incoming class. But as they have for many years, such students made up the largest racial or ethnic group in the newly admitted class.

Candice Shikai, a UCLA junior who is a leader of UCLA’s Asian Pacific Coalition, noted the drop in Asian Americans in the admitted class, but said she and other Asian American students were happy to see black admissions rise.

“It’s really great that the African American admissions increased, but I think we still need to realize that there are communities within the Asian community -- Pacific Islanders and some of the Southeast Asian communities -- that still lack access,” Shikai said. “So those numbers were a little disappointing.”

On campus Thursday, some students said they were not aware of the admissions statistics; others were, and emphasized the importance of diversity at a college campus.

“I think it’s good, but I don’t think it’s good enough,” said history student Aaron Whittington. “I would like to see numbers high for all minorities on campus, not just African Americans.”

Philip Tu, a graduate nursing student from China, said only two African American students were in one of his nursing classes of 60 students. “I do think we need more diversity,” Tu said. “In our careers, we deal with all different kinds of people. You have to know about different cultures.”

Across the UC system, meanwhile, admissions statistics released Thursday showed that the university offered places for the fall at one or more of its nine undergraduate campuses to a record 57,318 incoming freshmen from California, officials said. That amounts to 77.4% of the high school students who applied, many of whom were admitted to more than one campus.

The UC systemwide admissions numbers, unlike those for UCLA, do not include out-of-state or international students. Such students typically make up less than 10% of UC’s student population.

Systemwide, the admissions of African American students rose by 10.2%, Latino students by 10%, white students by 3.5% and Asian American students by 1.8% over a year ago. The admitted class is 56.6% female and 43.4% male, roughly the same as previous years.

Susan Wilbur, director of undergraduate admissions at UC, said the numbers this year were “good news.”

Based on previous years, UC officials expect nearly 60% of those admitted to enroll, although the percentage will vary from campus to campus. Students have until May 1 to accept their admission offers.

“We are pleased we were able to find a place for every eligible student who applied to the University of California,” Wilbur said.

The percentage of African Americans admitted across the UC system rose to 3.6%, the highest level since 1997, which was the last year before Proposition 209 barred the use of race in admissions.

The percentage of Latinos and Chicanos admitted rose to 18.7%, the highest since at least 1989, but Latinos remain underrepresented at UC in part because their statewide population has risen dramatically.

Asian American students, who dominate many UC campuses, saw a small increase in admissions over last year, but their overall percentage of admissions dropped to 35.3% as the number of students from other racial or ethnic groups rose.

Wilbur noted that UC is providing opportunities to many students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. About 38% of the students offered admission come from families in which neither parent graduated from a four-year institution; 35% come from low-income families.

At the same time, Wilbur said, the admitted students met high academic standards. The average “weighted” grade point average -- which includes extra credit for accelerated or honors classes -- of the admitted class was 3.79, up from 3.78 for the current class.

rebecca.trounson@latimes.com

richard.paddock@latimes.com

Times staff writer Angie Green contributed to this report.


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