Correction: The information concerning California’s K-12 education system, specifically its role in preparing students for college, was incorrectly attributed to Chancellor Henry T. Yang. In fact, UC Student Association President Bill Shiebler commented on this issue.

In 2006, only 6.2 percent of California-resident African American students and 6.5 percent of Latino students were eligible for the University of California. At the same time, over 31 percent of Asian American students and 16 percent of white students were eligible.

Not knowing the causes of or solutions to such discrepancies, the UC created the Regents Study Group on University Diversity last summer to research and make suggestions on how to improve diversity at the UC, as well as to look at the effects of Proposition 209. Pending its findings and suggestions, the University may drastically change how it approaches eligibility requirements and admissions decisions.

Proposition 209 passed in 1996, and prohibited public employers and public education systems from discriminating against or giving preferential treatment to anyone based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.

Currently, the UC aims to have a student body that is representative of the diversity of the state, said UC spokesman Ricardo Vazquez. To reach out to a wide selection of quality students, it uses a comprehensive review of applications. The University has what is known as the Eligibility in the Local Context, which makes students that are ranked in the top 4 percent of their high school – or 3 percent for UCSB – UC-eligible.

Last year, only about 15 percent of students who graduated from a California public high school were eligible for the UC.

The study group plans to improve on this process, and in turn campus diversity, by recommending changes to the eligibility requirements, as well as admission practices and the state’s K-12 system, said UC Student Association President Bill Shiebler, a member of the study group.

For example, Shiebler said the group could recommend that the UC switch to ABE, or Admissions by Exception. In this method, the chancellor of each UC campus is given six percent of all UC admissions and can admit students by exception, usually due to sports or family conditions.

The state of California has also proposed ways to help diversify the UC. Last week, the Assembly Higher Education Committee unanimously passed a resolution that would urge the UC to start a student exchange program with colleges and universities that have historically had more black students enrolled.

The bill must pass the Assembly Appropriations Committee, the Full Assembly and the State Senate before it will take effect. Legislative Director Diane Shelton said Assembly Concurrent Resolution 21 is a strong message to the UC from the state legislature.

“This bill is pretty popular,” Shelton said. “It gives California students an opportunity to experience and widen their horizons and vice-versa.”

Shelton said the California NAACP, California Federation of Teachers and the UC itself have sent letters in support of the bill. She said she does not anticipate any problems passing the ACR.

But outside of higher education’s role in increasing diversity, the main problem seems to be California’s K-12 education system, said Chancellor Henry T. Yang, who is also a member of the study group.

California ranked 47th in the nation for public education in 2006, according to the Morgan Quitno Press, which publishes state and city rankings. Shiebler said some K-12 schools do not even have outreach programs, which help educate high school students about university requirements and options, and many students are unaware of the classes they need to take in order to be eligible for the UC.

And if the Governor’s budget goes through in its current form, even fewer schools may have the programs.

California currently provides over $83 million to the UC and California State University to support over 20 outreach programs for K-12, according to the Legislative Analyst Office website, which provides fiscal and policy advice to the legislature in California. For the 2007-08 budget, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a $26.3 million reduction in these programs. This equates to a $19.3 million cut to the UC’s outreach programs, and a $7 million cut to CSU’s outreach programs.

Under this budget, the UC would maintain $12 million and CSU would maintain $45 million to fund its programs.

Though the study group has planned to finish a preliminary report on these subjects by May, Shiebler said members may not have enough time to look into all the issues, leading to an increased need for student support and community pressure.

Yang said the goals of the study group to increase diversity are ambitious, but they are attainable. They will, however, require the collaboration of those in the UC community as well as time.

“The job, however, may never be finished,” Yang said. “We must continue to work together with untiring commitment and a shared vision for our University’s future.”

The Study Group consists of 26 members, including Regents, Chancellors and five students from the various UC campuses. Representing UCSB are Yang, Shiebler and professor of education Michael Brown. The group is divided into four subgroups, with each group given a different focus: undergraduate student diversity, graduate and professional school student diversity, faculty diversity and campus climate.

According to the UC Statistical Summary, UCSB is working with relatively small differences in campus diversity since the elimination of Prop 209. In Fall 1997, the first fall after Prop 209 passed, of the 16,718 UCSB undergraduates, there were approximately 1.1 percent American Indian students, 2.7 percent African Americans, 13.3 percent Chicano/Latino, 15.5 percent Asian, 2.9 percent Pakistani/East Indian/Other and 60.2 percent white.

In Fall 2006, UCSB had a total of 18,077 undergraduates. Of these undergraduates, 1 percent were American Indian/Alaskan, 3 percent were African American, 20 percent were Chicano/Latino, 17 percent were Asian, 4 percent were Pakistani/East Indian/Other and 57 percent were white.