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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Six years after doing away with affirmative action, the University of California approved a new admissions policy Thursday that could open the door wider to blacks and Hispanics and give a boost to good students from bad high schools.

Starting in 2003, California students who graduate in the top 12.5 percent of their high school class can be sure of a place at the University of California – though some may have to go to community college first.

Currently, UC guarantees admission to the top 4 percent of each of the state’s high schools.

Under the new policy, students who fall between the top 4 percent and 12.5 percent of their class will have to go to community college for their first two years.

The UC Board of Regents approved the new standard in a 14-3 vote, effective for the fall of 2003.

Among those voting for the change, though with reservations because of “too many unknowns,” was Ward Connerly, the regent who led the fight to drop affirmative action.

UC has 135,000 undergraduates at eight campuses.

The new program, known as “dual admissions,” could increase enrollment of blacks, Hispanics and American Indians, whose numbers have declined at the top campuses – particularly prestigious Berkeley and UCLA – since UC dropped affirmative action in 1995.

“There are still students in this state who need someone to believe in them,” said Tracy Davis, the student representative to the Board of Regents, said Wednesday. “What we are hopefully doing with this proposal is creating an opportunity, a glimmer of hope.”

Dual admissions is the latest in a series of changes to UC admissions policy. At the same time, UC President Richard Atkinson is proposing eliminating the SAT I as an admissions requirement, a test that Hispanic and black students tend to score lower on than whites and Asian Americans.

UC is keeping its overall admissions policy, which is to take the top 12.5 percent of all students statewide.

What is different about the new eligibility guarantee is that it applies to individual schools – a change meant to help students who go to schools that are ill-equipped, overcrowded or have no college prep courses.

Earlier this year, UC extended eligibility to the top 4 percent of students in individual high schools.

UC has a long-standing commitment to accept all eligible students at one of its eight undergraduate campuses, though students may not necessarily get into the campus of their choice.

The regents made it a condition of approval that UC officials review several issues, including raising the required grade-point average in community college from the current minimum of 2.4.

UC officials estimate that up to 36 percent of the students eligible under dual admissions would be black, Hispanic or American Indian. Those groups made up 18.6 percent of the fall 2001 freshman class; recent census figures show they represent about 40 percent of the state population.

At the American Association of Community Colleges in Washington, president George Boggs enthusiastically endorsed the plan.

“It gives students the assurance that they can get into UC by coming into the community college and doing well in the community college and that’s exactly what we need,” he said.


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