Many California high school seniors don't meet requirements to apply to UCs or CSUs: study

Royce Hall on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images).

More than half of California high school seniors from 1,766 schools across the state lack the required college preparatory courses, according to a study done by EdSource.

The vast majority of students in California did graduate from high school – approximately 86% of seniors in 2023, according to EdSource. Yet over half of those students did not complete their minimum, or A-G requirements, according to an EdSource analysis of data from the California Department of Education. 

While the state of California requires students to complete a minimum of 13 courses to receive a high school diploma, UCs and CSUs require students take 15 courses in seven areas to even apply. 

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These courses range from a series of subjects including history, English, math, science, foreign language, arts and an elective. Each category has its own letter, A-G, which is where the A-G eligibility requirements get their name.

These courses overlap with high school requirements, but they are also more rigorous. For instance, three years of English are required to graduate from high school, while A-G eligibility requires four years. Only one of those years can include English as a Second Language or English Language Development, courses that English learners are often enrolled in.

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Low grades are a common way students fall off the A-G track, making it more difficult for them to get accepted into a UC or CSU. While a "D" is considered a passing grade for a high school diploma, A-G classes require at least a "C" to count as eligible.

EdSource’s analysis found that Black and Latino students are the hardest hit.

In 2023, 68% of Black students and 64% of Latino students did not meet A-G requirements, compared with 26% of Asian students and 48% of white students, according to EdSource’s analysis.

The highest non-completion group is foster students at 88%, followed by disabled students at 85% and English learners at 82%, according to the study.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.