My August newsletter

August 24, 2016

Dear friends and colleagues:

I hope the summer has been a time of relaxation and restoration for you. As we prepare for the fall term, I’m pleased to update you on our fall undergraduate admissions figures and also the progress we’re making on important initiatives.

I’m happy to report that for fall 2016 we have admitted 15.1 percent more California residents as freshmen compared to fall 2015 — a gain of 9,344 students. We’ve also admitted 14.1 percent more student transfers from California community colleges — the largest one-year increase in UC history. These gains easily surpass our goal of enrolling 5,000 more in-state students for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Equally encouraging is the continued progress we’ve made in strengthening the diversity of our undergraduate student body. Admissions from historically underrepresented groups grew for both freshmen and transfer students, with an especially notable 30.6 percent jump in the number of African-American freshmen, from 2,653 in 2015 to 3,464 for fall 2016. My most recent LinkedIn post also focuses on the importance and value of diversity.

Additionally, an impressive 42.7 percent of California freshmen admitted to UC are the first in their families to attend college. Systemwide, 37.3 percent of admitted students come from low-income families, which in 2016 means those with annual earnings of $47,200 or less.

These data reflect our continuing commitment to making UC accessible to those who meet our admissions standards.

But UC’s role as a driver of social mobility begins well before admission. With Achieve UC, an initiative to boost California enrollment on UC campuses especially among underrepresented groups, we continue to explore innovative ways to reach students who need and deserve a better education.

For example, we have created a summer program called Launch Academy in partnership with Bethany Baptist Church of West Los Angeles, an institution with deep roots in the local African American community. Ranging in age from 4 to 14, participants in this program engage in three weeks of math and three weeks of science instruction guided by Center X, an educational research and resource center at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education. Hands-on activities that are both instructive and fun, such as making balloon-powered vehicles, have sparked such curiosity and hunger for learning that one mother remarked of the group of children in attendance that “we might have the next Elon Musk or Bill Gates in there.”

Should those children decide to pursue their education in science or math, they will find a welcome home at UC. A recent survey by found that among the 100 largest universities in the country, UC San Diego graduates the highest percentage of women with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). In fact, an impressive one in three UCSD female undergraduates earns a degree in a STEM discipline. That’s three times the national average. Other UC campuses featured prominently on this list as well: UC Davis ranked third with 23.7 percent of women receiving STEM degrees; UC Berkeley was fourth with 23.5 percent; and UC Irvine ranked eighth at 21.5 percent. These graduates will drive the innovation that UC is known for, while bolstering the ranks of a group still sorely underrepresented in STEM fields: Women. Some may even follow in the footsteps of Jennifer Doudna, a UC Berkeley professor of Chemistry and Cell Biology who recently received a Tang Prize for her breakthrough discoveries in genome editing.

Winning international prizes is wonderful, but there are many remarkable success stories from UC that don’t make the national news. One that touched me recently was that of the Corona Gomez family. Two undocumented farmworkers from Mexico had five daughters who worked in the San Joaquin Valley fields alongside their parents while growing up. Urged by their parents to get an education, they took that advice to heart: All five have earned college degrees, four of them from UC campuses. One has become an attorney, another is applying to medical school, and a third is in the midst of choosing between medicine and law. With all five focused on giving back to their communities, they are an inspiring example of what our society gains by investing in education for all.

By helping students both before and after they are admitted to UC, we will continue to create success stories that prove a UC education has the power to change lives.

Thanks for reading and please email me at if you’d like to share an idea or comment. Feel free to pass this letter onto friends and colleagues and to encourage them to sign up for future newsletters if they’d like.

Yours very truly,
Janet Napolitano