UCSD admissions scrutinized in article

    A San Diego Union-Tribune article published on Oct. 26 compared UCSD admissions to UC Berkeley’s, which have recently come under fire for turning away a number of students with higher SAT scores while certain students with lower S.A.T. scores were accepted, according to an investigation led by UC Board of Regents Chair John Moores.

    Moores’ investigation has also come under fire as a UC report made by a coalition of UC professors, civil rights organizations and educational groups was released, which argues in favor of comprehensive review, pointing out what it labeled as flaws in Moores’ report. The document claimed that S.A.T.s were not the only factor important to being admitted to a UC campus.

    In UCSD’s case, 790 students with S.A.T. scores below 1,000 were admitted in fall 2002, according to figures released by UCSD’s admissions office. These students represented 4.7 percent of admits. The S.A.T. average for the 2002 freshman class was 1,293. The Union-Tribune article pointed out that 58 percent of these students are underrepresented minorities.

    Director of Admissions and Relations with Schools Mae Brown pointed to lower grade point averages, which are given greater weight than test scores, for the students not admitted.

    “”The concern is how you can not admit students with high test scores but you can admit students with lower test scores,”” said Brown. “”Well, I think it’s important to look at the quality of these students.””

    California residents with S.A.T.s over 1,400 who were not admitted had an average GPA of 3.38. Residents with S.A.T.s below 1,000 who were accepted had an average GPA of 3.86.

    Brown pointed to a number of factors used in looking at the quality of applicants in the two-year-old comprehensive review process.

    “”Academic achievement is probably worth 74 to 75 percent of the weight of the comprehensive review score,”” Brown said.

    However, according to Brown, race and ethnicity are not factors in admissions, as state law prohibits their use.

    “”The readers are reading blind,”” Brown said.

    She provided alternative explanations for the 58 percent of lower-scoring admits being underrepresented minorities.

    “”I do think there is a logical explanation as one looks at low test scores,”” Brown said. “”Historically, all of the research points to underrepresented students not doing as well on standardized exams. They don’t have access to the resources others have, to the test prep courses; they go to schools that don’t have as strong of a curriculum, so there are a number of reasons why much of the data will show that you’ll find high-achieving underrepresented students that have low test scores. To the extent that they’re in this [section of lower scores on the range of admits], that’s the reason why they’re there.””

    The incoming class of 2002 was the first class to be admitted under the comprehensive review system, which was approved by UC faculty to look at more than GPAs and test scores.

    Comprehensive review aims to represent “”a broad combination of academic and non-academic factors,”” according to UCSD’s undergraduate admissions policy. These factors are listed as GPA, test scores, number of courses taken beyond the UC-required minimum, eligibility in the local context, educational environment (disadvantaged environments are listed as schools among the fourth or fifth quintile of California public schools), low family income, first generation attendance, demonstrated leadership, special talents, achievements and awards, volunteer or community service, sustained participation in pre-collegiate/motivational and enrichment programs and special circumstances or personal challenges.

    The Eligibility in the Local Context points to students who were in the top 4 percent of their graduating class and are designated as eligible through the UC’s ELC program. ELC students are guaranteed a spot in a UC campus, although not necessarily the campus of their choice. The UCSD freshman class of 2002 included 5,747 ELC-eligible students.

    UCSD also has a “”local 4 percent”” program, which accepts UC- eligible applicants not otherwise admitted from San Diego County and Imperial County who fell into the top 4 percent of their graduating class.

    The UCSD policy also states in its guiding principles that, consistent with regental policy, up to 6 percent of students may be admitted “”by exception,”” going on to say that “”typically, the campus admits less than 1 percent of its entering class”” under this policy.

    Brown criticized the Union-Tribune article for stating that 34 percent of students were admitted through ELC, while she said the figure was closer to 88 or 89 percent.

    She also criticized the article for what she felt was a negative depiction of GPAs at UCSD. The article stated long-term data showing that students applying under the local 4 percent plan had an average 2.76 GPA in their freshman year, falling below the 2.94 average freshman GPA.

    “”It’s disturbing to me, because I think that means a lot,”” Brown said. “”That’s a B-minus around here … after the transition these freshman go through, I’m really pleased, and I don’t want our students to feel that they have anything to be concerned or embarrassed about.””

    Admissions at UCSD, like at all other UC campuses, will shortly come under review by the UC Board of Regents following Moores’ investigation of UC Berkeley admissions.

    His preliminary report given to the Los Angeles Times found that 378 students with S.A.T. scores lower than 1,000 were accepted while a comparable number of students with S.A.T.s over 1,400 were turned away. Moores’ report made no mention of GPA or other factors.

    UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Berdahl criticized Moores’ report in a letter to UC President Robert C. Dynes, stating that the report failed to include “”essential contextual information.””

    The Oct. 24 report by the UC coalition of faculty, civil rights and education groups reached several conclusions explaining that, in their opinion, UC Berkeley’s admissions decisions were legitimate. These included that “”virtually all of the Berkeley applicants rejected with scores about 1,400 either had already withdrawn their applications, applied to extremely competitive engineering programs, or faced stiffer competition because they were not California students,”” that “”the S.A.T. is a weak predictor of grades at Berkeley”” and “”has virtually no value in predicting graduation rates,”” and that “”Berkeley students with S.A.T.s below 1,000 are quite successful academically.””

    The report’s authors included several UC Berkeley sociology and ethnic studies professors and the ethnic studies department chair, the associate dean of Golden Gate University’s School of Law, the University of California Student Association, the San Diego Latin Concilio on Higher Education, the Equal Justice Society, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing and the executive director of the Princeton Review Foundation, among a dozen more contributors.

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