Jewish Journal

UCLA Leads the Pack

by  David A. Lehrer

March 29, 2011 | 5:15 pm

Last summer, Community Advocates published an op/ed in the Los Angeles Times singing the praises of UCLA and several other UC campuses for being in the vanguard of elite universities to admit socio-economically disadvantaged applicants. 

Rather than rely on race and/or ethnicity as a proxy for disadvantage (as a result of Proposition 209, they can’t) University of California campuses consider the socio-economic status of their applicants believing that the extent to which an applicant has overcome hurdles of economic disadvantage (Pell Grant eligible students come from families earning $45,000 per year or less) will be a measure of their ability to achieve success as a college student. There is little to argue about the disadvantage that occurs when there are no funds to pay for SAT prep courses, after school enrichment programs, tutors and the like.

Today David Leonhardt, writer of The New York TimesEconomix Blog, joins the praise for UCLA. Leonhardt cites the most recent data for elite universities and their paltry Pell Grant student admit percentages—-Harvard 6.5%, Yale 8.9%, University of Pennsylvania 8.2%, Duke and Northwestern 8.3% and Stanford 12%.

These relatively small numbers persist despite a commitment in 2005 from many of these universities to improve the admission of economically disadvantaged students. At the time, Harvard’s then-president, Larry Summers, opined that the growing divide between the children of the rich and the children of the poor was “the most serious domestic problem in the United States today.”

Leonhardt then comes to the conclusion that will warm the hearts of Bruins, recognition of what UCLA (and many of the UC’s as we point out in our op/ed) has done:

To give credit where it’s due, the University of California, Los Angeles, leads all elite colleges with 30.7% of its students receiving Pell Grants.

It is no small matter that elite research universities have expended the extra effort to identify and admit students who have the potential to succeed but not the resources to have yet reached their potential. Once again, much deserved kudos goes to UCLA and its UC colleagues for setting the pace for the rest of America’s best colleges and universities.

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