Nearly two decades ago, voters in California approved Proposition 209 which outlawed the use of race in admissions decisions at state universities in the California. Black enrollments at the University of California plummeted and have never recovered. The shortfall in Black students is particularly pronounced at the flagship Berkeley campus. According to the recent JBHE Annual Survey on students in the entering classes at the nation’s highest-ranked universities, Blacks make up only 2.8 percent of the first-year class at Berkeley. African Americans are 6 percent of high school graduates in California.
While university officials are unable to consider race in admissions decisions, they are taking steps to increase the pool of Black applicants to the university system. This past fall the Achieve UC program targeted 12,000 students at high schools with large underrepresented minority student bodies with programs to guide them through the admission and financial aid processes. The program is being expanded this year to target 60,000 minority students.
“We’re putting Achieve UC on steroids,” Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California told the Los Angeles Times. “We want students and their families to know that a UC education is attainable and it’s affordable.”
The Achieve UC program appears to be meeting with some success. This year, 6,589 African Americans applied to one or more University of California undergraduate campuses. They make up 6.3 percent of all students who applied for places at the university. In 2015, African Americans were 6.1 percent of all applicants. Two years ago, Blacks were 5.9 percent of the applicant pool.