Hearings held over UC admission problem

May 26, 2010 10:16:27 PM PDT
State lawmakers say they are fed up with qualified students being denied admission to California's university system. They are holding hearings to figure out how to help students get into the schools that are part of the state's legacy.

"My first UC choice was U.C. Berkeley, but then I had to go to UCLA," said high school senior Nicholas Banford.

Like so many California high school students, Banford was told what everyone is told.

"If I worked hard, I could get into a UC, and I know I worked hard. That was my goal," said Banford.

But his 3.5 GPA, advanced placement classes and his summers doing cancer research, weren't enough; the aspiring doctor or engineer didn't get into any UC at all.

"There isn't enough money in the system to hire professors, to have classroom space to provide all the support services students need," says Karen Humphrey from the California Post-Secondary Education Commission.

UC received a record 134,000 applications and accepted less than 72 percent system-wide and for first time this year, another 10,000 students were waitlisted; and in the end, only 1,900 of those were offered spots.

While the high school students graduating in the top 12.5 percent of the state are supposed to be admitted to a UC, a 4.0 alone is often not good enough at competitive campuses, like Cal and UCLA.

"Students, a lot of students are graduating with grade point averages over 4.0," said Humphrey.

The Legislature is looking at the state's Master Plan for Higher Education because lawmakers are concerned California isn't living up to its promise made 50 years ago.

"To understand what we need to do now to return to a time when we can provide access to all eligible students," said Assm. Ira Ruskin, D-Redwood City.

One proposal would impose a severance tax on oil companies, dedicating $1 billion a year to higher education, but tax hikes rarely get enough votes at the capitol.

Any fix will probably not happen in time for Banford, who's leaning towards going to college in Texas.

"It's unfortunately. I wanted to stay in California," said Banford.