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Six Campus Initiatives Unveiled at White House Summit

January 22, 2014

UC Merced unveiled six ambitious new initiatives to help college attainment and success among underserved students at an elite White House education summit in mid-January.

Chancellor Dorothy Leland joined representatives from about 140 American colleges and universities meeting with First Lady Michelle Obama and officials from the National Economic Policy Council and the Department of Education at the Jan. 16 summit.

To attend, each campus had to submit a list of new programs to help low-income and undocumented students improve their college-going and graduation rates. The campus commitments could not be revealed until today, the White House said.

UC Merced is uniquely positioned to speak to the issue of underserved students, because it serves predominantly low-income students. Sixty percent of undergraduates are Pell grant recipients and 62 percent are first-generation students.

“We are already committed to these students’ success. It’s in our campus DNA,” Leland said. “So we are proud not only to show what we’ve accomplished in the first nine academic years, but to reveal our plans to continue elevating the future of this region and the state.”

UC Merced has a wide range of programs for low-income students, including the Fiat Lux Scholars Program that has so far served 368 low-income students in their first two years. UC Merced also offers free tutoring, a first-year success course, special academic workshops and mid-semester grades for all first- and second-year students. Financial gifts also support undocumented, or Dream Act, students.

The new initiatives are:

  • Providing $460,000 in new funds to expand assistance to undocumented students. The money goes to special career and academic advising, increasing employment opportunities on campus, providing additional staff time to assist with admissions and academic transitions, and through a new website with links to on- and off-campus services specifically for undocumented students. In 2013-14, UC Merced enrolled 152 undocumented students with an average family income of $23,000.
  • Launching a $150,000 program to locate a career-development coordinator in the Silicon Valley to place 300 low-income, first-generation students in internships and jobs with venture-backed companies in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • Enhancing academic support to the 49 percent of UC Merced students majoring in science, technology, engineering and math fields. UC Merced identified more than $100,000 in additional funds for its recently opened STEM Resource Center.  The center coordinates tutoring and mentoring, research and internship opportunities, as well as advising for graduate school and careers for undergraduates. 
  • Inviting low-income high school seniors from across the San Joaquin Valley to attend a one-day College and Career Readiness Conference. The goal is to help more than 100 students make a seamless transition from high school to higher education. They’ll learn how to understand and compare financial aid award letters and make educated decisions about the best postsecondary options for themselves.
  • Implementing a new program for almost 100 emancipated foster youth. These students will receive intensive advising, year-round campus housing, special mentoring and educational programming. Emancipated foster youth have one of the lowest rates of college attainment – a particularly acute problem in the San Joaquin Valley – and UC Merced aims to change that.
  • Expanding efforts to improve financial literacy and minimize loan defaults. UC Merced will reach out to students about loan repayment options, work with families to reduce the need for loans, implement a website focused on money-management resources, and collaborate with the local community college, school district and County Office to coordinate and leverage financial aid outreach events across Merced County.