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Southwest Students Urged To Aim High By UC Schools

Aired 10/19/12 on KPBS News.

University of California chancellors are spreading the message that any state student can prepare to attend a UC school.

— No California student should assume going to one of the state’s top public universities is out of reach. That’s the message University of California chancellors are delivering to students across the state this week as part of an initiative called Achieve UC.

Students assembled in Southwest High School's gym to hear UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, Oct. 18, 2012. Students participated in seminars on preparing to apply to college and personal essay writing. Parents were also invited to attend a workshop on financial aid.
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Above: Students assembled in Southwest High School's gym to hear UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, Oct. 18, 2012. Students participated in seminars on preparing to apply to college and personal essay writing. Parents were also invited to attend a workshop on financial aid.

UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla kicked off a morning of speeches and seminars at Sweetwater's Southwest High School by telling the school's highest academic achievers that he believes there’s one important way to improve the world we live in: recognizing that talent comes from all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds and "making sure that there is no talent that doesn't have the opportunity to contribute to making this a better society."

That’s why he wants students from schools like Southwest, which sends few graduates to UCSD, to set their sights on the school. Senior Oscar Santiesteban was planning on going to Grossmont College before a teacher tapped him to attend the assembly. Now, he’s aiming higher.

“If you try your best, it’s possible you can get in. I felt like you had to be too smart or like, have money,” he said.

Khosla said no student should worry about costs when applying to the UC system. But after a financial aid workshop, parent Patricia Villegas said she’s only more worried. Her family won’t qualify for state aid and she’s not sure how they’ll pay for her son to go to college.

“Because we don’t receive any kind of help – not for medical, not for food, not for housing, not for gas – not for anything. And so, what happens with the middle class? We don’t count? Or, only the rich and only the very poor?” she said.

State budget cuts have led to steady tuition increases at California’s public universities in recent years. Maintaining accessibility in the face of increasing costs is an issue student associations have often raised.