Annual Fight Renewed for Outreach Work

    With no funding included for a collection of UC-operated outreach programs in this year’s preliminary state budget, the university is preparing for a familiar advocacy mission.

    For the third year in a row, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has drafted a budget plan with no state funding for the university’s academic preparation programs, many of which focus on outreach and pre-college recruitment. The plan will force outreach proponents into legislative hearings this spring to re-prove the program’s worth.

    This year, the governor’s budget proposes cutting $19.3 million in state money for the programs, leaving the total budget at $12 million for internal university resources. Some programs are directed at strengthening the high school “”pipeline”” to college with specific emphasis on disadvantaged K-12 students, such as the systemwide Early Academic Outreach Program.

    Last year, EAOP’s state funds were fully restored in an 11th-hour budget move, but a halving of the program’s budget in 2003-04 severely crippled its abilities, according to UCSD EAOP Director Rafael Hernandez.

    “”Prior to the 50 percent budget cut of 2003-04, EAOP served over 80,000 students in over 580 middle and high schools,”” Hernandez stated in an e-mail. “”Now, EAOP serves fewer than half that number of students in 309 schools.””

    EAOP’s middle school program, which includes academic enrichment services, was particularly impacted, Hernandez stated, with local staff and tutoring reductions of more than half.

    The state has remained stiff in its demand to see hard evidence of such programs’ effectiveness. Last year, H.D. Palmer, Schwarzenegger’s budget spokesman, said financial constraints required the governor to hold funding from outreach programs until its advocates could present an accurate measuring tool of effectiveness. Palmer echoed that message this year.

    “”To date, we have not received analyses of the various outreach programs that demonstrate a direct link to improved student outcomes,”” Hernandez said after the budget release.

    The closest evidence provided to the Legislature has been a university-sponsored report released last spring, which, among other things, found that students in EAOP completed the university’s high school requirement course pattern at a rate of 73 percent.

    “”This report demonstrates the importance of UC-led programs focused on preparing more California youth for the rigors of a college education,”” UC President Robert C. Dynes stated.

    However, the report still fails to identify the direct effect of outreach on higher education.

    “”We have received data that shows some correlation with successful outcomes for some students who participate in the programs compared to low-income students who have not,”” Palmer said. “”What we have not yet seen are data that can isolate or identify the specific contribution that outreach programs make compared to other variables.””

    Such variables could include other K-12 improvements tied to low-performing schools, Palmer said.

    The university is again readying itself for lobbying efforts in Sacramento, along with college student groups such as the UC Student Association. While recent years have seen budget restoration to academic preparation programs after the governor’s initial cut, UCSA President Bill Schiebler said that he hopes to see even more state support of outreach. However, he added that “”budget realities”” could offset those hopes, especially in a year where Schwarzenegger faces a budget deficit.

    “”It’s another effort year after year to get the money we need to operate those programs,”” UCSA Organizing Director Ruth Obel-Jorgensen said. “”We’ve revived the funding successfully in the past years, but have even more work to do to reclaim the original kind of funding outreach had.””

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