For the first time since when California's state university system adopted a race-blind admissions policy, the number of black, American Indian and Latino students accepted into the University of California system has reached the level it attained before affirmative action was abolished.
The U.C. system admitted 7,336 minority applicants this year--10 students more than the number accepted in 1997, when affirmative action was last used in the admissions process.
U.C. administrators said that increased outreach efforts have had a large role in raising the number of minority applicants. In the past few years, money spent for minority outreach has doubled, from roughly $80 million a few years ago to $60 million last year.
A spokesperson for Ward Connerly, the California regent who led the push for race-blind admissions, said the results prove that affirmative action isn't necessary.
"We're proving again and again with each passing year that you can indeed increase ethnic and racial diversity without resorting to preference," said the spokesperson, Kevin T. Nguyen.
But though the state-wide admissions rate has rebounded, rates at individual campuses have fluctuated.
The more selective campuses have not admitted nearly as many blacks, Hispanics and American Indians as they did before the end of affirmative action, when those groups were characterized by the state as underrepresented minorities.
At U.C Berkeley, for example, the number of those admits has dropped, from 1,778 in 1997 to 1,169 this year--a decline of 34 percent.
And at U.C.L.A, the numbers fell from 2,121 in 1997 to 1,554 this year, a decline of almost 27 percent.
UC Regent William T. Bagley, who led the effort to maintain affirmative action measures, said that a more dramatic drop is evident when the admissions rates of black students are examined alone.
"[At] Berkeley and U.C.L.A., there's about a 50 percent decline in the number of African-Americans admitted," Bagley said. "The same thing is true for Chicanos."
Bagley said he attributed this disparity in part to his belief that many qualified minority students do not apply to the UC system because of some students' perception of its "anti-affirmative action" stance.
Bagley also said he was worried that the ban on affirmative action would ultimately lessen diversity in graduate schools.
"When you look at graduate schools, you will find a vast disparity between a few years ago and the present," he said.
"These folks who are the tops in their undergraduate [class] simply refuse to apply because of the U.C.'s [reputation]. But we want you, we need you," he added, referring to minority students.
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