There is no one better than Birgeneau to talk about the value of a college education. The chancellor was the first in his family to graduate from high school. Eventually he went on to get his Ph.D. from Yale.
Only a few of the students from Lincoln High School in San Jose will end up at Cal, but the hope is all of them will end up in college. Birgeneau traveled to Lincoln High to talk to students about the importance of an education.
First he addressed seniors.
"People will always put obstacles in your way," he said.
The chancellor highlighted there are resources. A family making less than $80,000 pays nothing in tuition. And in 2013, undocumented students on the path to citizenship will be eligible for financial aid.
For those who don't get into Cal their freshman year, Birgeneau reminded them to keep pushing.
"At Berkeley for example we take in a little over 5,000 students directly out of high school and later we take in more than 2,000 who transfer from community colleges and so people who don't make it the first time have a second shot," he said.
Birgeneau and other UC leaders have made it a point to visit high schools throughout the state.
"I know that if I don't get into Cal, I am going to get into another university and brighten my future," student Sandra Gutierrez said.
"You can do anything with your life, with the right education and knowing that income isn't a problem, it's really motivational to anyone," student Gabriel Rivas said.
While Birgeneau promises financial opportunities for many students, he worries about the UC system and the many cuts Sacramento has made.
"When I started as chancellor at Berkeley the state provided 30 percent of our budget and now they provide 11 percent and this is in a very short length of time and so it's been extraordinarily challenging," he said.
The Prop 30 tax measure would guarantee no further cuts to the UC system and other state colleges, but opponents say it's misguided.
"So while some may say ok we'll just raise taxes a few more times and we'll take it from these billionaires, we'll take what they have and that will fix it and it will cover a couple of years, we will be back to where we are today but the gap will be even larger," Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association spokesperson Greg Coladonato said.
Prop 30 has been slipping in the polls. As of Thursday, 48 percent of those asked said they would support the tax measure, but 14 percent remain undecided.