UC Merced offering unique program to keep local high school students around

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- UC Merced announced a unique program designed to keep some of the area's top academic talent in the Valley.

Students in the Merced Union High School District who qualified to attend UC Merced will automatically be accepted for admission.

Over half the student body in the district went back to school on Monday. Many El Capitan High School students resumed in-person classes.

But they also learned about how they could take a direct path from high school to UC Merced if they could maintain at least a 3.5 GPA with no "C" grades.

El Capitan Freshman Michael Brown explained, "There's always a lot of anxiety for juniors and seniors to find out what college they want to go to. Just to be able to know you just have to complete some classes and you can have a guarantee at UC Merced, that's an honor for us."

The pandemic has created financial instability in countless families.

Many parents continued to worry about how they'll be able to afford their child's college tuition.

The UC Merced offer could ease some concerns with stimulus funds increasing the amount of financial aid available.

UC Merced Chancellor Juan Sanchez Munoz said, "If families want to inoculate themselves from difficulties of employment in the future well beyond the pandemic, nothing does that more so effectively than a college education."

Students often apply at several schools. This new program was designed to try to keep Merced County's best and brightest in the valley.

Merced Union High School District Superintendent Alan Peterson said, "We want this opportunity for our students so they can go here, finish up their 4-year degree, and then possibly choose to go into their career in our local communities."

Chancellor Sanchez Munoz' pitch to students included the school's ranking in US News and World Report.

He continued, "You can attend one of the finest universities. In fact, one of the top 50 public universities in America here locally."

The district included 10 schools in Atwater, Livingston, and Merced.

About 28% of the enrollment at UC Merced was currently made up of students from the Valley.

Campus enrollment was just over 9,000.

The university planned to increase that number to 15,000 by the end of the decade.
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