UC President Michael Drake discusses university reopening, affordability

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Photo by Gmartineau86 under CC BY SA 4.0 ./Creative Commons
In a conversation hosted by the Public Policy Institute of California, UC President Michael Drake spoke about the reopening of UC campuses in the fall, efforts to diversify campus populations and keeping the cost of a UC education affordable. Photo by Gmartineau86 under CC BY SA 4.0.

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In a conversation hosted by the Public Policy Institute of California, UC President Michael Drake spoke Friday about the priorities and challenges that the University of California will aim to address in the near future.

Among other topics, Drake expanded on the reopening of UC campuses in fall 2021, efforts to diversify student and faculty populations and keeping the cost of a UC education affordable for students.

“In the fall of ’21, what exactly that will look like will be determined by the behavior of the country and (COVID-19) over these next few months, but we’re hoping to be able to get classes back together in a modified fashion,” Drake said at the event.

Drake said he expects in-person instruction to begin on all UC campuses in fall 2021, given that the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and case numbers continue their current trends. He also expects to open dorms in a modified capacity this fall.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UC system has not imposed any tuition increases. The university also supports doubling the Pell Grant to provide additional financial relief for students. This signifies the university’s broader commitment of keeping tuition affordable for students, Drake said

The UC Student Association, or UCSA, is also in support of doubling the Pell Grant, along with other reforms, according to UCSA President Aidan Arasasingham. The UCSA, which is a coalition that represents students within the UC system, is committed to advancing access and affordability, he added.

“UCSA is urging Congress … to modernize the Cal Grant, and UC to re-envision campus safety and support for basic needs,” Arasasingham said in an email. “As campuses move toward reopening in the fall, we also are pushing university leaders to chart a recovery with health, equity, and affordability for students top of mind.”

Diversity and equity are also at the forefront of priorities for the UC system, Drake noted. The university will continue to diversify the faculty population by recruiting current graduate students at UC schools and outside universities, among other methods. The university also supported Proposition 16 this past election season, which would have repealed the ban on affirmative action for all California colleges, he added.

For the current admission season, the rate of Black applicants to UC schools increased by 20%, Latino applicants by 11% and transfer students by 5% from previous years. Drake noted that the university is “very interested” in continuing to increase diversity among classes and helping underrepresented minorities earn college degrees.

“We still believe that a college degree or graduate degree or professional degree is a great pathway to employment,” Drake said. “We’re doing all we can to help students get those degrees as effectively as possible.”

Contact Kelly Suth and Karen Vo at [email protected].