Gompers students benefit from relationship with UCSD
UC San Diego Chancellor’s Associates Scholars in a 2015 photo. (Alethea Go/UC San Diego Publications)

Gompers students benefit from relationship with UCSD

inewsource’s initial investigation touched on the relationship between Gompers and the University of California, San Diego, but we wanted to know more – especially about the Chancellor’s Associate Scholarship that many Gompers seniors have received.

The scholarship is interesting because of how many Gompers students receive it despite their low test scores relative to freshman colleagues at UCSD.

The Chancellor’s Associate Scholars are drawn primarily from schools where the majority of students are black and Latino, which matters at a university where only 2.5 percent of the population is black and 17 percent identify as either Latino or Mexican-American.

This story is one in a series about Gompers Preparatory Academy.
See them all here.

Christine Clark, with UCSD’s Communications and Public Affairs Office, says the Chancellor’s Associates program covers $10,000 of tuition per year for up to four years. This is less than the cost of tuition – which is $14,050 this year for California residents – but any student who qualifies for the program should also be eligible for a UC financial aid program. The two combined cover all costs, including housing and books. This equates, basically, to a full ride – enabling many students to attend a university that might otherwise be financially out of reach.

But it’s not just a scholarship – the program also includes counseling, priority class sign-up, access to a pre-college transition program called Summer Bridge, guaranteed housing for four years rather than the standard two, a facilitated connection with a peer mentor, individualized financial aid, career and graduate school advising, a critical thinking seminar course, and leadership development and communication training activities.

The UCSD Chancellor’s Associate Scholarship Program is funded by individuals who give $2,500 or more to the university. The program is growing – UCSD reports that in the 2016 fiscal year, the program received $872,026 in donations, which it referred to as “the most successful fundraising year in the program’s history.”

Initially, UCSD awarded this scholarship solely to students from three schools: Gompers and The Preuss School (both UCSD-affiliated charter schools) and Lincoln High School, a public school in the San Diego Unified School District. In the four years since its creation, the scholarship program has expanded to include students from local community colleges, recognized Native American tribes and other “high-achieving resident students statewide in California” from low-income backgrounds. It is open to students from families with incomes of less than $80,000 per year.

More than one-third of Gompers graduates in 2016 and 2017 matriculated to UCSD with this scholarship. The next-most-attended schools for Gompers graduates are San Diego City College and San Diego State University, respectively.

We attempted to talk to the staff of the Chancellor’s Associates Scholarship Program, but were directed to the Communication and Public Affairs Office.

College support services such as the kind offered by the Chancellor’s Associate Program are especially useful for students from low-income backgrounds, explains Frances Contreras, an associate professor in the Department of Education Studies at UCSD whose research focuses on the pathway to college for Latino students from low-income households and neighborhoods. These students often have what Contreras calls “differences in input.”

“Perhaps they attended a low-income Latino-serving district, for example, or they themselves were the children of immigrants where their parents may not know about the college process, or about all these extra investments you can make in your child,” Contreras said.

By “investments,” she’s referring to everything from SAT tutoring to childhood music lessons or the ability to participate in robotics teams, all of which tend to be more difficult to access for financially strapped families.

“For those students who may not have had those extra additional investments or access to the summer programs that cost multiple thousands of dollars,” Contreras said, “to get them prepared for college, it’s really important for them to, from the beginning, get enrolled in and seek out additional tutoring services, seek out mentors, take advantage of the existing programs.”

Gaining admission to UCSD

Official materials state clearly that the scholarship is administered by the financial aid office, and no special application is required. So, in order to receive this scholarship, an applicant must first gain admission to UCSD, which means meeting admission criteria.

The UC system has only a few requirements for first-year admission, in addition to a wide range of potential factors universities may consider. Students must complete the minimum requirements in “A-G” courses in basic subjects like English, math, and history to be eligible. Gompers requires nearly all its students to take these courses to graduate.

For admission into the UC system, students must also have a minimum 3.0 grade point average. As inewsource previously reported, Gompers students have high GPAs compared to their standardized test scores. Of the 113 students graduating in 2017, not one earned a grade lower than a C in the first semester of their 2015-2016 school year. More than half of the class had straight A’s with courses in advanced chemistry, AP history and precalculus and averaged a 4.7 GPA out of 5 the first half of their junior year.

Yet of the 122 students who took the SAT in 2015-2016, just three met the benchmark for “college readiness” – or 2.5 percent of test takers. Of the 118 who took the ACT in 2015-2016, just six met the benchmark for “college readiness” – or 5.1 percent of test takers.

Search SAT "college readiness" rates among California schools here, or ACT "college readiness" rates here.

Gompers also has a low pass rate on AP tests, which measure performances on college level courses. Last year, the pass rate was 20 percent, up from the year before but down from five years prior. The most common score was a 1 – the lowest option. Out of the 12 AP tests Gompers offers, only three received any passing scores – US History (with a seven percent pass rate), Spanish Literature and Culture (with a 13 percent pass rate), and Spanish Language (with an 80 percent pass rate).

More than 25 former students and teachers have alleged serious problems at Gompers that account for these low scores. Teachers interviewed said grades are inflated and the school’s director, Vincent Riveroll, shames educators who assign failing grades by telling them they are “murdering” kids. Gompers denied these and other accusations and said students who are faltering are tutored, go to “Saturday School,” summer school or are even made to repeat a year.

Standardized test scores are an important admission factor for UCSD. While students must submit SAT scores, there is no minimum ACT or SAT score necessary to meet. Here’s a breakdown of SAT scores and percentages among UCSD’s 2016 Freshman cohort:

SAT Composite Score Range Percentage in Range
1500-1600 7%
1300-1499 42%
1200-1299 21%
1000-1199 24%
Low-999 7%

The College Board, a nonprofit that administers the SAT, identifies a score of 1010 as its “College and Career Readiness Benchmark.” Less than three percent of Gompers students hit that mark in the 2015-2016 season. The ACT, a separate nonprofit, established benchmarks for its test that indicate a “high probability” of earning a C or higher in the first year of college. Five percent of Gompers students hit that benchmark in 2015-2016.

This indicates that Gompers students are getting into UCSD and receiving scholarships with abnormally low test scores.

We reached out to Chancellor Pradeep Khosla to ask whether UCSD has a policy to admit a certain number of the school’s students.

Although his office declined an interview, Khosla said in an email:

“There is no agreement that specifies a specific number of students will be accepted.” He also said, “It is important to note that the decision to admit is completely separated and independent of the decision to offer the Chancellor’s Associate Scholarship.”

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Researchers, including those at Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Southern California, question heavy reliance on the SAT score as a measure of college readiness. A 2013 study demonstrated correlations between parental income and SAT score, and a significant connection between race and SAT scores. Black students showed lower scores than white students, even when controlling for other factors.

Despite Gompers’ students’ low incoming test scores, UCSD reported that – overall – 75 percent of Chancellor’s Associates Scholarship students arriving in 2015 stayed in good academic standing in their first year of college. Data reported by Gompers show “college persistence” rates:

“I do think financial support is a critical component for helping students be able to not worry,” Contreras says. She notes that working too many hours at a job outside of school can detract from students’ academics. A scholarship can ensure that “they’re not working even more than 20 hours a week … because they really do need to study and focus on their majors.” She also cites the peer mentorship and specialized advising as helpful retention tools.

Though it’s a growing program, this scholarship and the support it offers only go to a few hundred people – a tiny fraction of the university at large, which has more than 35,000 students. The scalability of the program depends on how much money the school can reliably raise, which could limit such a program at UCSD or at other universities. And while a plurality of Gompers students go to UCSD, more than half the student body goes to other schools, where similar programs may not exist.

“I also think that higher education has the responsibility of ensuring its students are thriving,” Contreras says. She notes that many programs that emphasize preparing students for college end once students reach that goal and that it’s important to support students both in high school and college.

“We’ve identified the need for … not only these college intervention programs that stop, but to work with higher education so that when these programs end, these structures of support exist in a higher ed context.”

More in the series:

Gompers Preparatory Academy inewsource
Gompers Preparatory Academy inewsource
Click here to read a new story about what Gompers graduates told inewsource. (Gompers YouTube screengrab)
Gompers Preparatory Academy inewsource
Gompers Preparatory Academy inewsource
Gompers Preparatory Academy podcast
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About Jaz Twersky:

Jaz Twersky
Jaz Twersky is in her senior year at the University of California, San Diego, where she’s earning her bachelor’s degree in linguistics. Twersky is the Editor-in-Chief of UCSD’s independent school newspaper, The Triton – a role that brought her into contact with inewsource. She’s previously written a number of opinion pieces, as well as news and arts.

About James Douglas:

James Douglas
James Douglas is in his senior year at the University of San Diego, where he’s earning his bachelor’s degree in English and Communication Studies. Douglas is the copy editor for USD’s school’s newspaper, The USD Vista, and asked to intern at inewsource after Executive Director Lorie Hearn guest-lectured in one of his classes.