In July 1995, The Regents of the University of California, the University's 26 member governing board, adopted a resolution known as SP 1, that eliminated the consideration of race and gender in the admissions process. Under the new admissions policy, the University of California (UC) would admit no less than 50 percent and no more than 75 percent of freshmen on academic criteria. The remaining 25 percent to 50 percent of the class would be selected using academic criteria and additional measures--such as special talents, achievements and awards--to assess academic promise and potential to contribute to the educational environment of the campus. The new admissions policy was implemented for graduate students entering the UC in the fall of 1997, and for a majority of undergraduates in the spring quarter of 1998.
Prior to the adoption of SP 1, the nine UC campuses enrolled about 60% of their students on the basis of grades and tests, including SATs (Scholastic Aptitude Test). In the belief that test scores are not the only measure of student potential, admissions* offices enrolled 40% on the basis of grades and other factors, including special talents and experiences, income, family background, race and ethnicity.
Admission on the basis of a combination of academic and supplemental criteria, including race and ethnicity, also served to diversify the University. While the University naturally attracted students with a broad range of academic and other interests prior to the implementation of affirmative action policies, they had not had sufficient success in achieving ethnic and socio-economic diversity.
Under the 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education, the University of California provides a place on one of its campuses for all interested students in the top 12.5% of the state*s high school graduates. For many under-represented groups, the major barrier for admission to the University of California was eligibility. African American and Hispanic eligibility rates were significantly below the 12.5 percent established by the Master Plan. The University's conclusion was that the only way to make real progress in achieving their goal for diversity was to admit every eligible under-represented minority student to their first campus of choice - usually the University's flagship campuses, including UC Berkeley and UCLA - even as they began to redirect many non-minority students to their campus of second choice. Each UC campus adopted this same strategy as its circumstances warranted.
As the decade progressed, another trend emerged. UCLA and UC Berkeley experienced a surge in freshman applications. Both responded by increasing the freshman class size and by instituting more stringent academic selection criteria. Gone was the day when all eligible applicants could be accommodated. UC's two flagship campuses were now selecting the best prepared among the abundance of qualified applicants.
In his presentation to the University of California Regents on July 20, 1990, UCLA Chancellor Charles Young stated, "In 1980, UCLA processed and admitted all students who were UC-eligible, no matter how marginally. Today, we are highly selective, admitting only about 40 percent of all applicants....As further evidence of the dramatic changes that have taken place at UCLA, consider the volume of applications to the University. In 1980, UCLA processed 9,000 applications and admitted all UC eligibles. In 1989, 24,000 students applied and only 10,613 were admitted."
It should also be noted that the increased competitiveness at the UC also coincided with a sluggish economy in the early 1990's. Bad economic times led to many initiatives targeting perceived threats to the fiscal well-being of the middle class--the cost of illegal immigration and unfair affirmative action programs in the jobmarket. Many middle-class families saw the University of California's high quality, low cost college education as providing some security in an uncertain future and affirmative action programs in admissions and hiring practices were taking that away.
The Regents' decision to implement SP-1 over the combined objections of then-UC President Jack Peltason, the Academic Council and all nine campus chancellors had also sparked a renewed debate over the Board's autonomy and the issue of shared governance at UC. But the most dramatic impact of the policy may be if the Regent's decision marks the beginning of the end of affirmative action, and what impact ending affirmative action will eventually mean.
Sources: UCLA Freshman Admissions in the 1990's: A Decade of Rapid Change, Presentation to the University of California Regents by Chancellor Charles E. Young, July 20, 1990.
University of California Fact Sheet: Implementation of SP 1, University of California, Office of the President, 1996.
Prepared by Paul Takayama (UCLA)
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