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Cal State outreach to African Americans yields gains

February 6, 2013 |  5:17 pm

Efforts to attract African American students at the California State University system are paying dividends with applications up for the third year in a row, officials said Wednesday.

About 17,663 African American students applied for fall 2013, up from 16, 588 in 2012 -- a 6% gain.

Overall, nearly 174,000 freshmen and 109,000 transfer students applied to one of Cal State's 23 campuses, increases of 4.8% and 17.2% respectively.

Officials said applications from African Americans have risen steadily during the last decade and they attribute the gains in part to an outreach initiative called Super Sunday, which started in 2006 with top university officials, including campus presidents and the chancellor, speaking to African American church congregations.

Officials distribute guides listing classes  that students should take beginning in the sixth grade to qualify for Cal State, offer mentoring help and tips for applying for financial aid, among other information also provided.

“One of the key things is trying to get students prepared for college, but also the idea is to have students and people who influence students like parents and grandparents join together in a voice that says you can go to college, that is a goal you can reach,” Cal State spokesman Erik Fallis said.

This year, events will be held throughout February and March at more than 100 predominantly black churches in Northern, Central and Southern California and are expected to reach more than 100,000 churchgoers, officials said.

Cal State’s “commitment is stronger then ever to motivate and encourage African American students to prepare for college and earn a university degree,” Chancellor Timothy P. White said.

White is scheduled to speak at St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Bakersfield on Feb. 17, at West Angeles Cathedral in Los Angeles on Feb. 24 and at Glad Tidings Church of God in Christ in Hayward on March 10.

Since the effort began, the number of degrees awarded to African Americans increased by 30%.  African American and other underrepresented students still suffer a significant gap in graduation rates, however. Cal State has also launched outreach programs for Latino, Asian and Native American students, veterans and foster youths.

Given the demographic shifts in California, colleges have to work harder to attract African American, Latino and other underrepresented students, especially to such fields as math, engineering, science and technology, said Cal State L.A. President James M. Rosser, a longtime supporter of Super Sunday.

“When I again stand in front of a congregation to discuss the road to college and the life-enriching benefits of a college degree, I look forward to making meaningful connections with the young people and those for whom this information is so critical,” Rosser said in a statement. “For some, shedding a little more light on the path is all that is needed. For others, the information is a call to action.”

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--Carla Rivera

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