The three-year-old UCSB Outreach program is riding the administrative roller coaster this year, taking a sharp hit in funding and hiring a new director to galvanize the program.
As part of University of California budget cuts, Outreach suffered a $2 million system-wide loss from the $40 million it receives annually. Of that, UCSB took a $25,000 hit from its usual $2.5 million. Outreach is a state-sponsored program that tries to establish a connection between the UC and kindergarten-through-high-school education.
Joe Castro, the program’s new director, was hired this year to serve on the three-year-old Chancellor’s Outreach Advisory Board and organize outreach efforts at UCSB. Castro’s position was created this year to strengthen and serve as the “glue” between all outreach programs currently on campus.
Among outreach efforts, Castro teaches local high school students UC eligibility requirements, what tests to take and how to fill out financial aid or college applications. He also works with high school teachers and encourages them to teach college prep classes like advanced chemistry, biology and physics.
“This information is critical for students to know, so that when it is time for them to fill out college applications, they will be ready,” Castro said. “I am sensitive to the students of outreach, as I was one myself in high school.”
Castro said UCSB programs have shared resources and not yet been affected by the financial setback, but that many would be vulnerable if budget cuts continue.
“I view it as a moderate cut. It’s something we’ve been working on in the past few months and I don’t see it as a disruption,” he said. “With a recession you can’t predict what will happen with this budget.”
COAB co-chair Sarah Fenstermaker said she is concerned that recent international events may perpetuate financial woes.
“We are concerned that in the aftermath of this horrid terrorist attack the economy will drive some budget cuts; the recession will drive some budget cuts,” she said. “If that happens, very often programs like these are turned to for more flexible funds.”
Despite recent cuts, funding for outreach programs was limited when COAB was created three years ago, according to Fenstermaker. In the early nineties, the UC Regents and the California State Legislature implemented affirmative action to ensure that University population reflected statewide demographics in terms of race, ethnicity and gender. Fenstermaker said the passage of Proposition 209 in 1996, which outlaws race and gender-based admissions, has impaired the University’s ability to meet this goal.
UC schools are expected to use some of the funds to establish relationships with five to seven local high schools with under-represented students, Fenstermaker said.
“The partner schools would be chosen so that as improvements are made in those schools, and as connections are made from that school to the University of California, they could, in addition to having programs within those schools, also encourage increased admission and enrollment from under-represented students,” she said.
Since 1997, the number of students who have been accepted to UCSB through outreach programs has grown by 31 percent, and Castro hopes the number will grow even more with his new policies.
Before coming to UCSB, Castro worked in outreach at UC Merced, scheduled to open in 2004. In the Central Valley, which has one of the lowest college-going rates in California, Castro initiated outreach programs to make sure that when the college opens, the student body will represent the diverse population of the area.
“For four years I worked to help design the initial outreach programs that worked with students, teachers and the schools,” he said. “So I have a lot of experience designing those kinds of programs, building partnerships, different organizations and really trying to focus on having the university serve the needs of these students.”
Sociology professor John Mohr has worked with Castro for several years.
“His broad range of talents and skills on outreach topics that he has worked on in the past clearly shows that he understands what needs to be done for improvement,” he said. “UCSB is very fortunate that Joe Castro has been persuaded to take this new position. I am looking forward to his leadership and the new policies he is going to establish.”