BERKELEY, Calif. (KTVU) - UC Berkeley is offering new scholarships through what's called the African American Initiative to attract and retain black students.
University officials say Black students make up only 3 percent of the undergraduate population and 2 percent of its graduate students. This year, a $1 million anonymous donation made it possible for the university to offer the scholarships.
Desmarie Jackson is one of 28 freshman who received the new scholarship.
"I didn't think I could afford it. I didn't think I would get in," she said.
The 17-year-old from the farming community of Atwater in Merced County said this is a dream come true.
"I fit right in. Within three days, three hours, I felt right at home," said Jackson.
Making students like Jackson feel at home at UC Berkeley is largely in part what the initiative strives to do.
School officials said a survey found Black students who are admitted to Berkeley, often chose to attend other schools.
"They were not choosing Berkeley because the campus was unwelcoming. There was not enough African Americans here to make them feel that there was community,’ said Mia Tidwell, UC Berkeley Assistant Vice Chancellor.
She said other universities were also offering more attractive financial aid packages. Tidwell said Cal, as a public university, has a responsibility and a promise to fulfill.
"To make sure that first generation college goers and working class people, get access," said Tidwell.
Jackson said her father is black and her mother is Hispanic. She and her brother were raised by their grandparents. While she earned straight As, performed poetry show wrote and was a member of high-school band, she didn't think she could afford Cal.
"How humbling it is to know I'm here at Berkeley studying," said Jackson.
She said the African American Initiative made it possible for her to attend her dream school.
She will be receiving $8,000 a year for four to five years.