|Oakland Tech students got information about college as part of an Achieve UC event last year.|
By Nicole Freeling
The University of California wants you: That is the message thousands of high school students will hear in the coming weeks as chancellors and senior leaders from all 10 campuses visit schools in low-income communities around the state.
The event, called Achieve UC, will reach more than 10,000 students in schools with lower than average college-going rates. The aim: Inspire young people to see themselves as college material — and back it up with practical support to help them realize those ambitions.
On Wednesday, newly appointed UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks will speak to 150 juniors and seniors at an Achieve UC rally.
"This is something special for us," said Julio Franco, principal of Richmond High School. "When somebody takes the time out of their busy schedule to come here, that says a lot. It says the university is interested in them."
Richmond High serves large numbers of students from low-income families, and many are English language learners. Despite those challenges, the school has seen a significant increase in recent years in the percentage of students who are eligible for college when they graduate. Today, 21 percent of seniors and 45 percent of freshman are on track for college, up from 7 percent of seniors and 29 percent of freshman in 2005.
UC Berkeley operates a number of programs at the Richmond High campus that offer students academic and advisory support, and the success of that partnership is evident in the rising number of students prepared for college, Franco said.
"We've really been trying to build a college-going culture here, and that takes time," said Franco. "For quite a few of our families, the goal had been graduating from high school. Over the last few years, we've been shifting toward looking beyond high school to higher education."
Franco has an interesting first-hand perspective: As one of nine children of immigrants with limited schooling, he — along with four of his siblings — went on to earn a degree from UC Berkeley.
"The main thing I hope students will see is that Cal is not too far away as a dream," he said.
|Oakland Tech students examine transcripts.
Almost half of UC students come from low-income families or are among the first generation in their families to go to college, a rate that far exceeds other top-tier research universities.
Yet students in historically underserved communities often don't realize they can afford or get into a four-year college, especially a highly selective university like UC, according to Yvette Gullatt, UC assistant vice provost of education partnerships.
"We want students to know that it's not where you go to high school or where you come from that determines whether you go to UC — it's the wealth of your ambitions and achievements," said UC systemwide Provost Aimée Dorr. "If you've got the courage to aspire and the determination to do well in school, we want you here at a UC campus, and we've got resources to help you and your family manage the cost."
The systemwide effort to connect high school students with UC senior leaders is now in its second year. After meeting with students at Gompers Preparatory Academy in San Diego last year, UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla established a scholarship that commits four years of funding for students at Gompers and two other schools in the district — Lincoln and Preuss — to attend the campus.
UC saw an increase in the number of overall number of applications from students at the schools visited as part of last year's effort.
Students at the Achieve UC high schools likely will be surprised to learn just how high the acceptance rates were among their classmates who applied to a UC last year: More than half were admitted. And that's just the average admission rate. At Richmond High, the number is much higher, with four out of five students who applied last year getting a letter of admission.
That's an encouraging fact for students to learn.
Equipping students for success
Achieve UC visits
||Mission Bay HS
||Santa Ynez Vly
||David Starr Jordan HS
||Madera South HS
In addition to the inspiring messages from Dirks and other senior leaders, Achieve UC also will provide students and their families with workshops and resources to aid in the college-going process.
Students will meet with advisers who can help them assess what additional classes they need to be college eligible. They will learn about scholarships designed to make college affordable to all Californians — opportunities such as the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, which covers the full cost of tuition for students whose families earn $80,000 a year or less.
More than half of California resident undergraduates pay no tuition at all, thanks to the Blue and Gold Plan and other financial aid.
Students at some schools will receive personalized transcripts evaluations that highlight the specific courses they need for admission to California's public four-year colleges. They also will learn about paths for transferring to UC and CSU from community college, should they chose that route.
"It's exciting to see students learn that something they thought was beyond their grasp is actually quite attainable," Gullatt said. "These kids learn that they're just one or two classes away from being UC- and CSU-eligible, and about the financial aid opportunities that are available, and you see their whole vision for their future change."