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‘Moving in the right direction’

With the University of California continuing to expand enrollment of Californians, UC President Janet Napolitano told the California Black Chamber of Commerce that UC has seen encouraging results from its ramped-up academic outreach and community-building efforts.

“More than 8,000 African American undergraduates were enrolled at UC campuses this past academic year — the most in the Proposition 209 era,” Napolitano said, referring to the constitutional amendment, enacted in 1998, that bans public institutions from consideration of race, gender or ethnicity in admissions, employment and contracting. “We’re moving in the right direction, and we’re very committed to continuing that trend,” she said.

Although Prop. 209 had made it more difficult to promote racial and ethnic diversity on UC campuses, UC has learned to work within its constraints, she said in remarks on Aug. 17 at the Women’s Symposium of the Ron Brown Business and Economic Summit in Oakland.

The university has focused on academic preparation programs, which reach more than 100,000 K-12 students across California each year. In addition to those efforts, last year, UC brought college-readiness and financial aid information to 140 high schools with low college-going rates.

“We don’t want anyone to rule out a UC education because of concerns that it’s unaffordable,” Napolitano said. “More than half of California resident undergraduates pay no tuition. UC’s Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan ensures that tuition is covered for those with an annual family income of $80,000 or less. And financial assistance also is available for expenses such as housing, food and books.”

In her speech, and a Q&A with Alice Huffman, president of the California NAACP, Napolitano said that educational opportunity is just part of the equation at the university.

Keeping within Prop. 209’s constraints, UC is also working to diversify its business partners, so that more small and disadvantaged businesses have the opportunity to work with the university.

Last April, Napolitano created a Small and Diverse Business Advisory Council, and charged it with making recommendations to help UC procurement policies and processes be more conducive to including small, diverse, disadvantaged and local businesses, she said.

She urged the audience to stay involved with the university, not only for the the possible business opportunities that it represents, but as advocates for UC’s larger mission.

“Over the years, public universities have been the best vehicle for social mobility, and for addressing issues of inequality in our country,” Napolitano said. “Your advocacy with state elected officials will help us ensure that future generations have access to the same quality of higher education as past generations. And future graduates will fuel the growth of business enterprises across the state.”

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