A New Generation of UC Applicants

The UC schools have long sought to admit low-income, first-generation college students (photo credit: Alton).

There’s a piece in The Los Angeles Times that tells the story of “a new generation” of University of California applicants, dubbing this group of young people “the unentitled kids.” The piece focuses on a group of students from Downtown Magnets High School in Los Angeles, a school with students who, as Los Angeles Times reporter Teresa Watanable puts it in her piece “The unentitled kids: California’s new generation of star college applicants,” “are the children of low-wage cooks and waitresses, parking valets and factory workers, caretakers and security guards. Their parents are mostly immigrants who landed in Los Angeles from Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, South Korea, the Philippines, China — largely unschooled in how to navigate the U.S. college admissions process and unable to hire the pricey consultants and tutors enlisted by some well-heeled families to help their children gain an edge.”

But, while absolutely inspiring, the piece left us scratching our heads a bit. And why? Because the University of California schools — and all elite universities for that matter — have been seeking to admit these very kinds of students for much of the past generation. Yes, elite colleges have sought out low-income students, first-generation college students, the children of parking valets and factory workers, for the entirety of the first twenty years of the twenty-first century. That’s a generation. So how is this new if elite colleges, including the University of California schools, have long been bragging about landing such and such percent of first-generation college students and such and such percent of low-income college students?

We applaud The LA Times for shining a spotlight on these remarkable young people at Downtown Magnets High School. But let’s not label this trend new when it’s a trend that has been around for an entire generation already. It’s like suggesting that personal computers and mobile phones are super trendy right now. While the parents caught up in the Varsity Blues scandal at universities like UCLA may grab headlines, schools like UCLA have simultaneously been appealing to students on the opposite end of the socioeconomic spectrum for decades. Instead, maybe The LA Times can focus on a more recent trend in which elite colleges are making efforts to appeal to middle-income students. Low-income students (and high-income students) have long enjoyed an advantage in elite college admissions, but now elite colleges are trying to appeal to a group that has long been left out: the students in the middle. Wouldn’t this group be more aptly dubbed “the new generation” of UC applicants?

Agree? Disagree? Let us know your thoughts by posting a comment below. We look forward to hearing from you!

 
 

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