UC's doors are open

August 29, 2014

This column is the first in a monthly series written by President Napolitano, which will be translated and published in a range of languages as part of a partnership with New America Media.

Soon after becoming UC president, I asked students at an Oakland high school how many planned to apply to the University of California. I was surprised to see so few hands raised, and alarmed to hear so many say they doubted their families could afford tuition.

Some myths die hard. This is one that needs to die fast because it can do lasting harm to young people who have what it takes to earn a UC degree.

The truth is that, because of financial aid, half of all UC students pay no tuition at all.

Students from eligible families with annual income under $80,000 qualify for our Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan. Together with state and federal aid, Blue and Gold funds ensure that full tuition and some other costs are covered. Students from families with incomes up to $150,000 can get help, too.

No student who meets our academic requirements — or their parents — should rule out UC as an option simply because they think they can’t afford it.

California high school graduates have two other options: California State University and California Community Colleges.

I have been working closely with the CSU and community college leaders to help students who aspire to a UC or CSU degree, but start their higher education at a community college.

In one of my first acts as president, I mobilized a team to recommend strategies to help community college students identify the courses they need to apply to UC or CSU, and to succeed once they are enrolled.

We presented those strategies to UC Regents in May, and are moving forward with them.

Nearly a third of UC undergraduates started at a community college. About 15,000 students transfer from community colleges to UC each year. In 2013, 52 percent of incoming transfer students were the first in their families to attend college; 55 percent were from low-income families.

Transfer students perform very well at UC; 86 percent go on to earn a degree, slightly exceeding the rate for incoming freshmen.

Yet there is more we can do.

We are establishing a pipeline to UC in partnership with the 30 community colleges that do not send large numbers of students. We also will increase UC’s presence at every California Community College campus and offer more academic preparation programs and training.

At the same time, because we must also serve those who have earned admission as freshmen, we are seeking additional funding from the state to increase enrollment capacity.

We cannot succeed without your engagement and support. To learn about opportunities to join us in our advocacy and to keep informed about opportunities at the University of California, please visit our website: http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/.