Is There And Alternative To Affirmative Action? Yes!


Some low income San Jose area schools have seen a dramatic increase in college attendance rates in the last few years. And it wasn’t because of race-based set asides and preferences.

It was because Student from San Jose State University worked in these schools to help create a college going culture.

The San Jose Mercury News notes the following:

Six years ago, a group of San Jose State academics and master’s students adopted the entire seventh-grade class from three lower-income San Jose schools. They had one goal: to see if intensive tutoring and mentoring would result in more kids going to college.
Even they were amazed by just how many more. The number of graduates headed to four-year universities from Lincoln, Gunderson and San Jose High Academy shot up 89 percent compared with last year, to 340 students.

Too often the administrators of affirmative action programs have focused on the wrong things. First, they targeted students based on their race, as if it were the only factor as to why these students were not getting admitted to college. Socio-economic status took a backseat to their ethnic background.

The second misstep was to provide admittance to students without proper preparation. And as noted in a previous blog “Racial Preferences…Help or Hindrance?” this practice inevitably would set these students up to fail.

Well the folks in San Jose State seem to have found the answer.

San Jose Unified School District has made it a “vital priority,” Tweten said, for teachers to instill a “college-bound culture” in their students. Already, the district is one of the few to require graduating students to take all of the classes needed to apply for four-year colleges — whether or not they plan to pursue a degree.

So much effort is going into low performing student populations that the needs of potentially college bound students are not being met. But these folks are actually taking the time to see that all students (including those on the bubble) are actually prepared to be successful in college. The GEAR UP program, they are targeting those who might fall through the cracks. And while they’re not using race as a factor, I’ll bet that more ethnic minorities from these schools will benefit.

“Only 20 percent of counselors’ time is devoted to helping kids learn about going to college,” Tweten said. “That means kids are practically getting close to nothing in understanding the complexities of making college a choice and how to go about doing that.”

Unfortunately though, state funded programs like GEAR UP are in danger of loosing their funding. Under the Governor’s proposed budget, such “outreach programs” will not receive funding. More specifically, the dollar amount equal to their funding last year was eliminated from the Higher Education portion of the budget. And ultimately, it will be up to the two state college systems (UC & CSU) to decide if they will cut these programs or continue to fund them and find other places to make cuts.

If as conservatives, we are truly about creating equality of opportunity then we have to support academic preparation programs like GEAR UP. They steer students to college who otherwise would never have considered it a possibility otherwise. And they do it without race-based set asides. But they seek out students who are interested in success and prepare them to be successful.

So as budget negotiations ramp up, let’s encourage Republicans and Democrats to steer a few buck to save these programs. I believe it would be a wise investment in our state’s future.

Craig DeLuz

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