Concerned that finances may be one reason many African American students decide not to enroll at UCLA, a private group led by several prominent alumni has raised $1.75 million to bankroll scholarships for black freshmen.
The group, which is headed by Los Angeles businessman Peter J. Taylor and leaders of UCLA’s Black Alumni Assn., will make its first scholarship offers in the next few days and plans to give at least $1,000 to each admitted black freshman who enrolls. Additional awards will be based on financial need and academic merit.
UCLA has no direct role in the scholarships, but the private fundraising has been encouraged by UCLA leaders, including interim Chancellor Norman Abrams, as an innovative way to boost the dwindling number of black students at the Westwood campus.
California’s 10-year-old Proposition 209 prohibits the state’s public institutions from considering race in admissions or hiring; proponents have said it also bars such schools from any direct involvement in student scholarships or recruitment efforts based on race.
Sharon L. Browne, a lawyer for the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation, which has been involved in lawsuits that allege violations of Proposition 209, said she was disappointed that UCLA alumni would choose students for scholarships on the basis of race. But she said any violation of the law probably would hinge on the direct involvement of the campus or campus officials.
The number of African American students at UCLA has been dropping for years, despite a history of black student leadership and a legacy that includes such prominent alumni as former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and Nobel Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche.
Last summer, in what UCLA leaders described as a crisis, only about 100 black students said they planned to enroll in the current freshman class of about 4,800. That figure, the lowest in more than three decades, prompted leading UCLA faculty and administrators to push for a new “holistic” approach to admissions, which was implemented last fall.
Other major contributors include the Wasserman Foundation, which has donated $500,000; the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, which has given $400,000; and Richard Ziman, a Los Angeles real estate executive, who has given $100,000. Ziman, a longtime UCLA donor and supporter, is also one of two Gilbert Foundation trustees.