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Supporting Underserved Students

Learn about underserved students at UC San Diego, and how best to support them.

Defining the Population

Historically the University of California has classified as "underserved" students from groups that collectively achieved eligibility for the University at a rate below the top 12.5 percent (one-eighth) of the high school graduating class in California, including African Americans, American Indians, and Chicano/Latinos (UCOP: Student Academic Services, 2003).

Underserved student populations may also include first-generation students, low-income students, students from nontraditional ages and backgrounds, and students whose characteristics may be underrepresented in the university environment (Perna & Jones, 2013).



  • In 2015, underserved students made up about 35% of all undergraduate students enrolled in post-secondary institutions in the United States, including 15% Chicano/Latino, 13% African American, 6% Asian/Pacific Islander, 1% American Indian/Alaska Native, and less than 1% Pacific Islander students (NCES, 2016).
  • While the number of students enrolling in college has increased, research indicates that college enrollment rates for underrepresented students, particularly racial-ethnic minority students, is still lower than White and Asian students (Prerna & Jones, 2013). Additionally, racial-ethnic minority students are considerably underrepresented in nation's most selective colleges and universities.


  • In 2016, underrepresented students made up about 31% of all first-time freshman applicants and 28% of those admitted to the University of California. Of those who enrolled to a University of California institution, 30% were underrepresented students, including: 26% Chicano/Latino students, 4% African American students, and 0.45% American Indian students (UCOP Undergraduate Admissions Summary, 2016).

UC San Diego

  • In Fall 2016, UC San Diego admitted its most diverse freshman and transfer class, with more racial ethnic minority, first-generation, and freshmen from 4th and 4th quintile schools admitted than previous years (UC San Diego News Center, 2016).
  • In terms of ethnicity, underrepresented students made up 24% of all first-time freshmen students enrolled at UC San Diego, including: 21% Chicano/Latino students, 3% African American students, and 0.37% American Indian students (UCOP Undergraduate Admissions Summary, 2016).

Best Practices to Support Underserved Students

Resources: Articles, Professional Associations & Other Links


Perna, L. W., & Jones, A. (Eds.). (2013). The state of college access and completion: Improving college success for students from underrepresented groups. Routledge.