Minority enrollment drops at Calif. flagship campuses


LOS ANGELES -- Far fewer black and Hispanic students will enroll as freshmen at the University of California's most prestigious schools this fall, although their numbers will drop only slightly throughout the state system and some campuses will experience an increase, officials said yesterday.

The freshmen class of 1998 is the first to be admitted since California banned consideration of race in college admissions in 1996.

The release of the new figures comes seven weeks after an announcement that minority applications at Berkeley and Los Angeles had dropped sharply.

University officials said they were heartened that the drop at the top two campuses had not been steeper. But they expressed concerns about what the numbers foreshadow.

"The real danger -- our biggest concern -- is that the University of California system will become a segregated system," said Theodore R. Mitchell, vice chancellor of UCLA. "If this trend continues over the next five or six years, the diversity on this campus will be seriously compromised and, with it, our greatness."

Ward Connerly, the University of California regent who co-sponsored the anti-affirmative action measure, said the increase at some campuses and decrease at others was just redistribution.

As for the small number of black and Hispanic students at the most competitive campuses, Connerly said, "I tell people, 'You don't like those numbers. Well, I don't like those numbers either. But to solve the problem you have to deal with the problems in kindergarten through 12th grade. Don't blame the university.' "

According to new data, at the University of California at Berkeley, now the nation's most selective public university, overall representation of non-Asian minorities in the freshman class will be 10.54 percent, compared with 21.92 percent last year, a decrease of just over half.

There will be 98 blacks among them, far fewer than the 260 black freshmen in fall 1997.

At the University of California at Los Angeles, non-Asian minority groups will make up 14.1 percent of the class, compared with 21.8 percent last year. Of them, 131 will be black, compared with 219 blacks last fall.

The numbers, a reflection of which students have signed up to attend in the fall, follow admission data released in early April.

Across the university's eight campuses, minority representation of non-Asians will be down only 2.4 percent from 17.6 percent in 1997 to 15.2 percent for next year because less prestigious campuses at Riverside, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz increased the numbers of black and Hispanic students accepted.

Officials stressed that students at those campuses get an excellent undergraduate education, in some cases receiving more individual attention than at the flagship campuses.

The overall makeup of the student body at all University of California campuses reflects the burgeoning presence of nonwhites in the state. For next fall, Asian-Americans make up 35.4 percent of students planning to enroll, those classified as "whites and others" 35.3 percent, Chicanos 8.7 percent, Latinos 2.9 percent, African-Americans 2.8 percent and Native Americans 0.7 percent.

Those declining to state their ethnicity make up 14.1 percent, a huge increase over previous years, but officials say they are nearly all whites and Asians.

Robert Berdahl, Berkeley's chancellor, said in an interview that the numbers for blacks and Hispanic freshmen were "grim."

He added, "It isn't easy to put a positive light on this." But he and others did say that their worst fears had not been realized: of the small numbers of minority students admitted, a sizable portion are in fact choosing to attend.

Pub Date: 5/21/98

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