When UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla asked students in the Mission Bay High School auditorium Thursday morning how many thought they could not get into a University of California school, few hands went up.
A moment late, lots of hands shot up when he asked how many thought they could not afford to go.
Khosla and admissions officers from UCSD visited Mission Bay and Clairemont High School as part of "Achieve UC," a systemwide initiative by the University of California to attract more of the state's lower-income high school students to its campuses.
Recent analysis has shown that many low-income students who have the academic background to get into competitive colleges do not apply to those schools at the same rate as their more affluent peers.
So the message of the chancellor's Thursday visits to Mission Bay and Clairemont: If students are academically prepared, financial aid and scholarships can make college affordable.
“The day our kids in this country, the day when they will be going to school only because they can afford it, because of their family income, is the day when we start losing our edge in this country,” Khosla said.
Josh Plum got that message loud and clear. Stepping out of a workshop following the assembly for juniors on preparing to apply to college, he said he always thought going to a University of California school was out of reach.
"It kind of showed me that even if you don't have enough money, there's ways to get by that," he said, "like financial aid and scholarships and everything."
Plum's classmate Isaiah Brown already had plans to apply to a University of California campus, but said it was still exciting to hear Kholsa and a current UCSD student talk about the school.
"It made my gears turn about going to college," Brown said. "It made me think about more of — because education is very important — but more like how it's going to be there, like how students' experiences are going to be."
Forming more partnerships with San Diego County's public school districts is something Khosla is looking to do. He said to expect a program that gives $10,000 annual scholarships to UC San Diego undergraduate students who come to the school from Gompers Preparatory Academy, Lincoln High School or The Preuss School to expand to more county high schools this year.
Admissions officers from UCSD will be following up with Mission Bay and Clairemont students through the school year to help keep them on track with preparing for college.