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UCLA

A Level Playing Field

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By UCLA Chancellor Gene Block

Published Dec 14, 2018 8:00 AM


Many California students don’t apply to UCLA because they assume it’s out of their reach. Project Welcome aims to inspire those as young as 13 to make this their dream school.


Photo by Ted Catanzaro.

As Chancellor, I take UCLA’s role as a public institution very seriously and have used that mission to guide so much of what we do here. To me, “public” means many things: It means using our resources to help our community and society solve the most significant problems. It means transparency about what we do and how we work. Moreover, and perhaps above all, it means openness and accessibility for the best and brightest students from all circumstances.

I’m exceedingly proud of the work we’ve done to attract a diverse group of students. For example, more than a third of undergraduates who earn a UCLA degree are first-generation college graduates, and one-third of incoming undergraduates this year are transferring from California community colleges.

But as UCLA attracts the most talented students — this past year we admitted 14 percent of high school seniors who applied — we risk limiting access to many more students from diverse circumstances and backgrounds. We must do more, and that is why Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Youlonda Copeland-Morgan and her team created Project Welcome.

It’s never too early to get students thinking about college. This innovative program is designed to inspire students as young as 13 years old to prepare for college and, hopefully, to make UCLA their dream school. We believe that every California student who wants to go to college should have an opportunity to attend. Often, this means overcoming real or imagined barriers and being given the information they need on how to pursue their college dream.

Many California students never apply to UCLA because they were never told — when choosing classes in high school, for example — how to become UC-eligible, or because they believe that UCLA will not be affordable for their family. Project Welcome attempts to level the playing field.

We are reaching out to students through an attention-getting campaign that includes the distribution of stickers, postcards, pencil cases and posters to middle and high schools across California, encouraging students to sign up for text message alerts. Once students (and/ or their parents) have signed up to participate in Project Welcome, they will begin receiving regular information about why college matters, how they can become highly competitive applicants and how they can obtain financial resources that will help them to afford college. We will also help students understand why we believe UCLA should be their dream school. Students and their parents will be encouraged to visit ucla.edu/getcredit for helpful checklists to stay on track.

Outreach efforts like this, I believe, can make a real difference in changing lives by removing barriers to the recruitment, retention and advancement of talented students. Such efforts also help to ensure diversity, so that our entire campus community can benefit from having students with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences.

Our mission is to help students discover their greatness. Once that happens, the possibilities are endless.

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