California’s Latinos and Blacks Still Lag in University Eligibility

Larry Gordon, Los Angeles Times, December 10, 2 008

Despite recent improvements, Latino and black students continue to lag behind whites and Asians in becoming academically eligible to enter California’s two public university systems, according to a state report released Tuesday.

The study by the California Postsecondary Education Commission also showed that female high school seniors still do significantly better than males in taking required classes and earning grades and test scores that could gain them admission to the University of California and California State University systems.

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The study reported that 22.5% of Latino high school graduates were eligible for Cal State in 2007, up from 16% in 2003, when the last such study was done. For black students, Cal State eligibility went up to 24%, from 18.6%.

Latino and black eligibility for UC’s more rigorous standards were 6.9% and 6.3%, respectively, last year, slightly higher than four years ago.

White and Asian students did better in meeting requirements for both universities. For Cal State, 37.1% of white high school graduates were eligible last year and 50.9% of Asians, both somewhat higher than in 2003. For UC, 14.6% of white graduates and 29.4% of Asians met course, grade and test score requirements; those rates were both slightly lower than in the previous survey.

Factors holding down eligibility rates for black and Latino students include shortages of the necessary courses and sometimes inadequate counseling at high schools in many low-income, often predominantly minority areas, Haberman said.

Overall, Cal State rates rose mainly because more students met new requirements to take a second year of history and lab science, said Adrian Griffin, the commission’s research director. Griffin presented the report at a meeting Tuesday in Sacramento.

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Griffin attributed the drops in white and Asian eligibility for UC to tighter course and grade requirements at the university.

Griffin also suggested that California’s high school exit exam, required since 2006, cut out weaker students and may have affected eligibility rates somewhat.

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On a sliding scale that also includes standardized test scores, UC’s minimum grade point average in required high school courses is now a 3.0—a B average on a 4-point scale—and Cal State’s is a 2.0, or a C average.

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The eligibility study, which surveyed 72,000 transcripts at 158 public high schools around California, found that UC and Cal State requirements are well-aligned with their missions under the state’s 1960 master plan for higher education.

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