AHS Principal Robert Saldivar (left) and students present UC President Janet Napolitano and UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman with thank-you gifts after a rally emphasizing the accessibility and affordability of a UC education. Steve Zylius / UCI

UC President Janet Napolitano and UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman led a rally of more than 700 Anaheim High School students in Cook Auditorium on Friday, April 27, to send the message that a UC education is accessible and affordable. The visit was part of Achieve UC, a multiyear effort to encourage students in communities with low college-going rates to aim for and attain a high-quality college education.

“The reason why our campuses dominate The New York Times’ top 10 list of colleges and universities doing the most for the American dream is that we make our world-class faculty, amazing research and outstanding academic programs available to all talented and ambitious students, regardless of background,” Gillman said. “And by the way, it just so happens that the No. 1 university in the country doing the most for the American dream is UCI.”

Napolitano told the students that there are many pathways to earning a spot on one of UC’s nine undergraduate campuses, including a streamlined process for community college transfers. She also said that UC offers some of the most extensive financial aid packages in the nation through the Blue & Gold Opportunity Plan and other grants and scholarships that help pay for tuition, housing, food, books and other expenses.

“Fifty-six percent of our California undergraduates have their tuition fully covered by financial aid,” she said. “Nearly half of our students graduate without any student debt, and those who do take out loans graduate with far less debt than the national average.”

In addition to admissions assistance, Gillman and Napolitano described resources available to help the students succeed. UC offers support – through faculty members, advisers and classmates – to help them feel comfortable on campus, be they first-generation, low-income or undocumented.

“If you join the University of California, if I’m lucky enough to have you join UCI,” Gillman said, “you will not only succeed, you will flourish and thrive, you will get an education you deserve, you’ll go on to lead productive and rewarding lives – so that you can make the strongest possible contributions to improving our world.”

The rally also featured remarks by AHS Principal Robert Saldivar; AHS graduate Kimberly Escalante, now a second-year student at UCI majoring in both political science and Spanish; and Michael Matsuda, superintendent of the Anaheim Union High School District.

After the rally, Napolitano and Gillman met with UC-admitted seniors in the library, where students had the opportunity to ask questions and get pictures taken with the UC leaders. The president and chancellor wrapped up their visit with a Q&A session with the Anaheim Collaborative, a community-based partnership to improve pathways to higher education for local students.