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San Diego Campuses Try To Diversify Despite Affirmative Action Ban

— The Supreme Court sent a case about affirmative action at the University of Texas back to a lower court Monday. Justices said race could play a role in the admissions process if the university shows it is the only way to ensure diversity. Local schools have been working on alternatives to diversify student bodies since race-based admissions were banned in California more than 15 years ago.

Local campuses target student pipeline to boost campus diversity.

Photo by Susan Walsh

Abigail Fisher (right), the Texan involved in the University of Texas affirmative action case, walks outside the Supreme Court in 2012.

After voters passed Proposition 209 in 1996, black and Hispanic students became a smaller portion of the student bodies in California’s state universities. Locally and across the system, those declines have started to reverse.

At San Diego State University, Hispanic students accounted for about 30 percent of the freshman class in the fall of 2012, up from about 17 percent in 2002. The percentage of African American students declined to 4 percent from 5 percent over that same period. The relative rebound may be tied in part to partnerships to improve local students’ college readiness, said Sandra Cook, an assistant vice president in enrollment services.

“One such program is Compact for Success, which is with Sweetwater Union High School District," she said. "That’s a very diverse area. They have guaranteed admission if they meet certain benchmarks. The numbers of those student have increased. I think we initially had a couple hundred and now we’re up to almost 600.”

UC San Diego has similar partnerships with Gompers Prep Academy, Lincoln High School and the Preuss Charter School, which primarily serve students of color from low-income households. At UCSD, African American students accounted for 2 percent of the 2012's incoming freshmen, up from 1 percent in 2002. Hispanic students made up more than 13 percent of this year's freshmen, up from 10 percent 10 years earlier.

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