The University Preparatory Program (UPP) is a California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) university-high school partnership that spans eight years of education from the ninth grade in high school through graduation from college. The goal is to increase the number of underrepresented minorities who graduate from college, preferably with degrees in Mathematics, Science, Engineering and Technology (MSET). UPP has been in existence at Lincoln High School since 1989 and at Garfield High School since 1996. These high schools serve students who are socially and economically disadvantaged and severely underrepresented in MSET based disciplines.
UPP focuses on the middle achieving students who generally do not receive any attention from special programs which usually are intended for either the highly achieving students or those at the other end of the spectrum who are in danger of dropping out of school or not graduating. This is a group that has significant potential to add to the nation's scientific workforce. The general approach followed by UPP is to change the expectations of the target population so that they plan to graduate from college and to provide them with the academic background and skills along with the necessary support and guidance to enable them to earn a B.S. degree. UPP requires that while in high school the students take at least three years of laboratory science and four years of mathematics. These courses reflect the curriculum standards as established by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and in science as currently under development by the National Research Council. We also require four years of college preparatory English and three of foreign language. The program also brings them on the CSULA campus as often as possible to allow them to become comfortable with the idea that they belong in college and to further introduce them to academic disciplines and careers in mathematics, science, engineering and technology.
UPP has 579 students. Lincoln High School has 254, Garfield High School has 185 and there are 140 at CSULA. There are approximately 50 at other colleges and universities. Of the 140 that are enrolled at CSULA, approximately half started as math/science based majors. Many have graduated in these fields and are employed as scientists and engineers or are in graduate or professional school
Students are recruited for UPP through close cooperation with the counselors at the feeder middle schools. An initial screening is done of all eighth grade middle school students who are potential UPP students. We look for students from socially and economically disadvantaged groups that are traditionally underrepresented in math-science based fields. We pick middle achieving students who have grades in the C to B range and good attendance records. These students have the potential to earn a baccalaureate degree but, for several reasons, seldom do so. Scores on standardized tests are also examined. Candidates for UPP are then interviewed individually and told about the program. Written information is given to each candidate along with an application to take home. Final decisions on admission are done by personnel from CSULA and the high schools.
UPP is an eight-year program that starts each Fall at Lincoln and Garfield high schools when approximately 70 ninth grade students are accepted into UPP at each school. The program begins with an approximately three-hour orientation session at CSULA for the new students and their parents. At this session the program is described in detail, the students and parents are told about the advantages of graduating from college with a degree in a math-science based field, tours are given of the CSULA campus and group building games are held. At the end of the session the students and their parents sign a contract in which they agree to participate in a program that requires a rigorous college preparatory curriculum with an emphasis on mathematics and science, after school tutoring, and Saturday laboratory experiences at CSULA. When these students are seniors in high school we work closely with each student to ensure that they file their applications for college admission and for financial aid properly and on time. To date, most of the UPP students that have completed the high school part of the program have come to CSULA. Approximately 50% of these students choose majors in mathematics, science, and engineering based areas. While they are at CSULA we monitor their progress, advise them on course selections, place them in campus jobs and research positions when possible, and generally help them to adapt to university life.
Components of UPP
UPP is about raising expectations, removing barriers, real and imaginary, and providing a support structure. UPP combines a coordinated package of components that are known to be useful in helping underprivileged and underrepresented students reach their full academic potentials. These components are outlined below.