MERCED, CA — A $192,500 planning grant from the Ford Foundation will permit the University of California, Merced to develop a Concurrent Admissions Program with three San Joaquin Valley community colleges.
The funding will support an 18-month pilot program guaranteeing UC Merced admission to selected students attending community college in the fall of 2002 upon completion of their academic plan requirements. Partnering UC Merced with Modesto Junior College, Merced College and Fresno City College and their feeder high schools, the initial phase of the concurrent admissions pilot will involve a combined total of approximately 120 students.
“The Ford Foundation is excited about supporting this partnership between UC Merced and San Joaquin Valley community colleges,” said Cyrus Driver, program office for the Ford Foundation. “We see this program as a smart and innovative attempt to address important issues of access to higher education and the UC system for underrepresented groups of students, particularly low-income, minority populations. Because this is an effort occurring at the early stages of campus development, it can help shape the long-term direction of how UC Merced will provide student access to and ensure successful completion of a UC education.”
Developing a model that provides both recent high school graduates and non-traditional community college students with the academic and financial support they need to transfer to UC Merced and subsequently to graduate is the primary objective. University faculty and professional staff will work closely with faculty and staff at each community college to establish a concurrent admissions pathway, develop support services to ensure student success and offer the individualized attention that will be a hallmark of the program.
As the first students to be admitted to UC Merced, these students will benefit from opportunities that include visits to UC campuses, access to the California Digital Library, attendance at summer enrichment programs, participation in special internships and experience in working with University faculty on cutting-edge research projects.
Currently, less than 6 percent of San Joaquin Valley students are eligible to attend the University of California, compared to a statewide eligibility rate of 11.4 percent. Equally low is the regional number of transfer students, with only 423 students among more than 10,000 community college students transferring to UC campuses in the 1999-2000 academic year. On the positive side, 78 percent of the Valley's community college students who apply to UC are admitted.
“We are very gratified that the Ford Foundation shares our strong interest in opening new avenues to higher education for San Joaquin Valley students and we appreciate their support for this important initiative,” said UC Merced Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Jane Lawrence. “Through this program our goals are to create an awareness among students and educators that a UC education is a viable, attainable option in the Valley and to increase the academic preparation of community college students for transfer to UC. Also exciting is the opportunity to build greater collaboration, cooperation and understanding between the community colleges and UC Merced.”
Playing a pivotal role in the development of this partnership will be a Community College Ambassadors Program involving about community college faculty at each of the pilot institutions to serve as mentors and motivators, create a “college-going” or “transfer” culture on their campuses and share information about UC Merced with students. The faculty ambassadors will meet with UC Merced faculty and admissions staff at least twice a year to discuss curricula, academic support needs of students, general education expectations and articulation, and to exchange updates on the pilot program.
According to Lawrence, the single-most important measure of the pilot program's success will be the number of students who make significant progress toward completing their academic plans and are eligible for transfer to UC. If the initial phase of the Concurrent Admissions Program is deemed successful, UC Merced plans to submit a full grant proposal to the Ford Foundation for expansion of the program to other community colleges serving the San Joaquin Valley region.
Founded in 1936 as an independent, nonprofit organization, the Ford Foundation has provided more than $10 billion in funding to innovative people and institutions worldwide. Grants and loans are given in three broad areas representing the Ford Foundation's fields of interest: Education, Media, Arts and Culture; Asset Building and Community Development; and Peace and Social Justice.
UC Merced currently employs more than 90 educators and professionals. With the main campus scheduled to open in fall 2004 to serve 1,000 students, UC Merced ultimately will grow to serve 25,000 students over the coming decades. UC Merced also contributes to educational access throughout the entire San Joaquin Valley region via educational and outreach centers in Fresno and Bakersfield, and through the Tri-College Center in Merced. An additional UC Merced center is planned for Modesto.