Watson makes tough choices in time of diminished funds

    Life is about making tough choices: whether or not to go to class, light beer or dark beer, how to spend your money (what little of it the university’s tuition bills leave you, anyway). Given the school’s precarious financial situation, our administrators probably feel the same way. Recently, the university’s dwindling outreach budget forced Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph W. Watson to make one of those choices: between the Early Academic Outreach Program and Preuss School.

    Both programs deserve funding; EAOP helps underprivileged high school students apply for college and meet college eligibility requirements, while Preuss School gives some of them the opportunity to attend a well-funded, college preparatory high school. Watson chose Preuss School, cutting EAOP’s funding by over 50 percent and reducing the budget of the Student Initiated Outreach and Recruitment Commission from $60,000 to $20,000, while only cutting Preuss School by $30,000.

    However, the school’s plans for these programs have been temporarily stymied by the UC Office of the President, which has yet to approve UCSD’s proposed outreach budget, perhaps fearing backlash over additional cuts to EAOP, a central point of contention during last year’s budget controversy.

    This year’s situation, however, is nothing like last year’s, which is why the university should allow the proposed budget to pass through. Last year, outreach funding was being cut so that other, unrelated initiatives could be funded. This year, the money is actually still being spent on outreach — just not the program everyone associates with outreach.

    In fact, Preuss School has been wildly successful in its run as a school for underprivileged children. Of its most recent graduating class, 90 percent were admitted to four-year colleges, including 22 percent who were accepted to UCSD. Despite its small 55-member graduating class, the school also managed to send students to such prestigious schools as Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dartmouth College and New York University.

    Not bad, considering Preuss School students all come from low-income backgrounds and are students who are profiled as traditionally having less of a chance at attending college: underrepresented minorities and those students with no college-educated parents, who make up more than 72 percent of the school’s students.

    Not that the EAOP program isn’t worthy of funding as well. For one thing, it serves about twice as many students as Preuss School, albeit to a much lesser degree. But like a child whose spending money has been cut, the university must decide where to devote its limited resources, and Preuss School is the right decision. Currently, Preuss School has 767 students enrolled in sixth grade through 12th grade whose quality of education would be decreased by a cut in funding. In addition, Preuss School, with its more intensive educational model, disseminates findings about its educational strategies throughout the K-12 school system in California, which could potentially benefit millions of students.

    The UC Office of the President should realize that if it doesn’t want to cut funding to all the worthwhile outreach programs the university supports, it should allocate more money instead of playing politics.

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