Black enrollment drop stuns UCLA

LOS ANGELES – This fall 4,852 freshmen are expected to enroll at the University of California, Los Angeles, but only 96, or 2 percent, are black – the lowest figure in decades and a growing concern at the campus.

For several years, students, professors and administrators at UCLA have watched with discouragement as the numbers of black students declined. But the new figures, released this week, have shocked many on campus and prompted school leaders to declare the situation a crisis.

UCLA – which boasts such storied black alumni as baseball legend Jackie Robinson, Nobel laureate Ralph Bunche and former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, and is in a county that is 9.8 percent black – now has a lower percentage of black freshmen than either its crosstown rival, the University of Southern California, or UC Berkeley, the school often considered its top competitor within the UC system.

The 96 figure – down by 20 students from last year – is the lowest for incoming black freshmen since at least 1973. And of the black freshmen who have indicated they will enroll in the fall, 20 are recruited athletes, admissions officials said.

“Clearly, we’re going to have to meet this crisis by redoubling our efforts, which have not yielded the results we’d like to see,” said Chancellor Albert Carnesale, who met Friday with a delegation of undergraduates upset about the situation.

Carnesale described the preliminary numbers for black freshmen as “a great disappointment” and said that UCLA has been trying for years to boost those levels, within the limits allowed by law.

He and other officials at UCLA and elsewhere said the problem of attracting, admitting and enrolling qualified black students is found at competitive universities across the country and that its causes are complex. In California, the problem is rooted partly in the restrictions placed on the state’s public colleges and institutions by Proposition 209, the 1996 voter initiative that banned consideration of race and gender in admissions and hiring.

Other factors include the socioeconomic inequities that undermine elementary and high school education, with minority students disproportionately affected because they often attend schools with fewer resources, including less-qualified teachers and fewer counselors.

Many students and professors also say the declining presence of blacks on campus discourages some prospective students from attending, thus exacerbating the problem.

In Los Angeles County, blacks accounted for 11 percent, or 9,152, of the 84,677 public high school graduates. Statewide, blacks made up 7 percent, or 25,267, of the 343,481 students who graduated from California’s public high schools in 2004, the most recent year statistics are available.

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