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Diversity Figures Show Half of Univ. of Calif. Students Are Immigrants, Children of Immigrants

More than half of University of California undergraduates are immigrants or the children of immigrants, says a new survey that paints an interesting picture of students by the numbers.

Among other things, researchers found that students are fully wired and report spending almost as much time looking at the Internet for fun as they do studying. Nearly half said they have trouble concentrating when they do buckle down to work.

The idea behind the UC Undergraduate Experience Survey, a multiyear project, is to give faculty and administrators “a little window into who our students are and what they’re thinking,” said Judy Sakaki, UC Vice President for Student Affairs.

Sakaki, who spoke to UC’s governing Board of Regents as they met in Santa Barbara on Thursday, presented findings from 2006 culled from responses by 58,000 undergraduates, 38 percent of the system total.

Twenty-three percent of the students reported they were born outside the United States, and another 37 percent said they have at least one parent born outside the country. Thirty-five percent said English was not their first language.

The findings reflect the diversity of California and follow UC enrollment patterns that have seen increasing numbers of Asian and, to a lesser extent, Hispanic students in recent years.

Still, the results were the first formal data on UC’s sizable immigrant contingent, said Richard Flacks, a co-principal researcher of the survey.

Although it is diverse, UC does not mirror state demographics. California is about 43 percent White, 36 percent Hispanic, 12 percent Asian and 6 percent Black. UC’s incoming class of in-state freshmen is 35.5 percent White, 35.3 percent Asian, 18.7 percent Hispanic and 3.6 percent Black.

Looking at time allocation, students reported they spend 13.1 hours a week studying, 11.1 hours per week using the Internet for nonacademic purposes and 5.7 hours a week watching television. Forty-two percent said they are easily distracted and not being able to concentrate hampers their academic success.

Flacks, a retired sociology professor at UC Santa Barbara, said he doesn’t have hard data on what’s behind shrinking attention spans but wouldn’t be surprised if it had something to do with the to do with time online.

“What students tell me is that Facebook is a tremendous distraction,” he said. “You can spend a lot of time tracking, tracking, tracking instead of doing anything else.”

Survey results are used by administrators in setting policy and evaluating current procedures, said Flacks.

“The survey can be quite valuable, I think, in showing faculty and the institution what this current generation of students’ experiences really are, where their eyes are focused,” he said.

– Associated Press

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