UC Merced was established in the San Joaquin Valley partly to address chronically low levels of educational attainment in the region and throughout California's greater Central Valley. According to UC Office of the President data, applications to University of California campuses from Central Valley residents have increased 41 percent and admissions have risen 45 percent since Fall 2004 (the year before UC Merced opened).
That statistic, reported in Fall 2008, is largely due to the efforts of UC Merced's Center for Educational Partnerships . Established in 2002, CEP is a comprehensive student academic preparation and educational partnership with the goal of effecting long-range improvement in the education of San Joaquin Valley students. CEP's ultimate goal has been to increase the number of area students eligible to attend institutions of higher education.
According to Interim Director Orquidea Largo, the center's success has primarily come from its ability to provide student, school and parent-centered services that connect local efforts to reform kindergarten-through-12th-grade education and the university's efforts to ensure a diverse student body.
Despite the state's uncertain fiscal future, CEP has managed to offer summer programs throughout the Central San Joaquin Valley this year that further its mission of giving more local students the educational opportunities necessary to make getting accepted to the UC of their choice a realistic possibility.
Just this summer alone, the center gave 450 low-income, first-generation students from the Valley the opportunity to participate in summer academies focused primarily on math, English and science, Largo said. These programs focused on educational achievement and helped students prepare for the academic rigors of college.
In addition to offering summer academies, the CEP houses programs such as the UC Scholars EAOP Program, the Parent Empowerment Program, and many others.
UC Scholars EAOP provides students with ongoing academic advising to ensure they successfully complete the required college preparatory courses for UC admission. Program participants and their families receive information and motivation to prepare for a postsecondary education, including assistance in the application and financial aid processes.
The Parent Empowerment Program has allowed the Center for Educational Partnerships to supplement student and school-centered events with activities that influence the extent to which parents support their students' efforts to earn a bachelor's degree.
It's not that parents don't support the educational ambitions of their children, Largo said. It's just that parents who haven't attended college don't always know how to show their support. The goal of the PEP is to give them the tools necessary to do that.