Allyson Escobar – “Fil-Ams Not As Visible in the UC System” – from Asian Journal newspaper (May 4, 2013)

LOS ANGELES – With a growing number of incoming students from all backgrounds, the University of California has tried to accommodate future learners with a diverse, well-rounded education suitable to their needs.

For us Filipino-Americans, higher education has always been a top priority, to fuel our drive for success.

However, the reality is that fewer and fewer young Filipinos are joining the UC education system. Despite being the largest Asian American/Pacific Islander group in California, Filipinos are still hardly present in the grand total of Asian Americans that are supposedly “taking over” the various campuses, especially in big-name schools like UCLA, UCSD, UCI, and UC Berkeley.

While Asian American students practically dominate these bigger schools (for instance, 50 percent of undergrads at UCSD are Asians), Filipinos themselves are not as visible.

In a 2010 student snapshot of data by the California Postsecondary Education Commission, it’s estimated that Filipinos have the lowest rate of total undergraduate/graduate campus enrollment, compared with other Asian ethnicities.

In UC Santa Barbara, for example, only 590 Filipino students were enrolled in Fall 2010, in contrast to the 3,246 non-Filipino Asian Americans admitted that same year.

There are many known reasons for this sudden dip in Filipino resence.

Take a look at Prop 209. An article in blog site talks about the proposition (also known as the California Civil Rights Initiative), which prohibits the government from considering race, gender, or ethnicity in making decisions for public education or financial aid.

More specifically, the University of California Board of Regents passed a motion in 1995 also ending race-based “preferences” as standards for admission. Many called this a move for “white affirmative action.”

“The percentage of underrepresented minority students admitted to the UC system dropped significantly, as soon as Prop. 209 passed,” said the San Francisco Huffington Post.

“Today, despite a number of policies and strategies employed by he university to diversify its student population, these groups remain a substantially smaller proportion of those admitted to and enrolled at the university’s most selective campuses—UC Berkeley and UCLA—than they were before the elimination of race-conscious policies.”

Filipinos, who are often caught in the middle of financial aid problems and affirmative action, play an active role in this debate.

In years past, Filipinos were among the only Asian Americans considered for affirmative action in the UC system.

Now, with the passing of new laws and Prop 209, many Filipino families have had more trouble getting their children to “better” (and consequently, more expensive) schools.

As a direct result of the passing of Prop. 209, the number of Filipino undergraduates across all UC campuses decreased significantly.

Applications for graduate and professional schools also went down, and a report even indicated that the law school at UC Berkeley admitted no Filipino students that year.

It’s no wonder that with rising costs, many Filipino families are uneasy about sending their children to a university. Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown promised a steady budget plan to try and avoid tuition increases for school year 2013-2014.

Of course, this meant a new initiative to raise taxes. But the tuition would remain fairly the same.

California, by itself, is prized for its budding racial diversity. The number of Filipino-Americans alone continues to grow ever year. According to demographic research by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), the Philippines has sent more immigrants to California than any other Asian country from years 2000 to 2010.

So what does this mean for our students? More Filipino families equal more students in need of a college education, and among them, many who still can’t enroll in UC schools.

An article in Asian Journal by op-ed columnist Gel Santos-Relos says that the low admission rates for Filipinos in the UC system is “not good news, as it foretells the possible diminishing competitive edge of Filipinos for better employment and opportunities in the future.”

On the other hand, Filipino-American students who are fortune enough to attend UC schools understand the significance of the presence problem.

Zeus Gumboc, a transfer student at UC Santa Barbara, says, “I feel like I’ve made my parents proud that I am here. Not to demote anyone’s education, but compared to my old community college, [being at UCI] is an incredible experience.”

“We have a diverse group of over 22,000 students, so many opportunities to get involved, and many ways to pursue our passions,” commented Lauren Villegas, a freshman at UC Irvine.

“I wouldn’t be anywhere else,” she added.

During her first year on campus, Lauren has already gotten involved with various cultural clubs, Greek life, and ASUCI, the associated student body government.

Like many colleges nationwide, the University of California promises a fundamental higher education and opportunities for all who want to learn and grow. Pursuing diversity on every campus is key for not only a well-rounded experience, but also for knowledge of generations of students to come.

(Allyson Escobar, with reports from, and Huffington Post.)


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