Faculty mull new changes to ‘Admission by Exception’

As part of its regular review of admission policies, the UCSD Academic Senate’s Admissions Committee is considering expanding a special existing program that allows high school students to be admitted to UC campuses even though they do not meet the minimum eligibility requirement.

The proposal, which has not yet been finalized, would allow high school principals to nominate students for participation in the program. If the selected students perform well once they are at UCSD, the high school principals would be allowed to make more recommendations. The proposal would not affect more than 1 percent of all admitted students, with specific details yet to be released.

“We are trying to see if [we] can improve the admissions system slowly by learning about applicants from people who can supply information that currently is not incorporated in the scoring system,” Academic Senate Admissions Committee Chair and sociology professor Akos Rona-Tas said.

In a trial of the program, the committee will incorporate new information they collect from a student’s high school principal and evaluate it along with the current formulized scoring system as part of the admission process. This will not, however, guarantee an admission for the students picked by the principals.

“This experiment is to see if we can admit underprivileged applicants who would not be admitted under the current scoring system but who would prosper here at UCSD nevertheless,” Rona-Tas said. “Some of these may be students who are UCSD-ready but fail the test of UC eligibility. In those cases, we will use our license under ‘Admissions by Exception’ to admit them.”

UC administrators currently use a “comprehensive review” admission process, which considers 13 factors about applicants and assigns points to each category. Admission by Exception is used for students with situations that the system cannot anticipate. For example, home-schooled students would receive further review of their applications to make sure the classes they have taken are equivalent to those of other students. In some cases, the method is also used to admit athletes and musicians who do not qualify under the traditional UC eligibility guidelines.

According to Rona-Tas, while the comprehensive review is a system meant to be rigid and formulaic, there is a necessity to continually review it for improvements. Last year alone, out of more than 32,000 applicants to the UC system, 4,000 were set aside for further review and for possible consideration in the Admission by Exception pool. Currently, the review includes asking for additional information direct from the individual student.

“We need to leave room for experimentation to see if we can improve the system,” Rona-Tas said. “The program stands right now as a way of treating exceptional cases that cannot be treated by the current system — there are always cases where you cannot fit in or there is an error with the application.”

At UCSD, 12 students, or less than 1 percent, were accepted by exception last year. According to Assistant Vice Chancellor of Admissions and Enrollment Services Mae W. Brown, students that have been accepted through the program were home-schooled or took classes through study-abroad programs.

“One particular case was a student who went to a study abroad program for high school students and missed a second semester of foreign language classes,” Brown said. “And that’s an example of how [UCSD] has used Admission by Exception in the past.”

The UC Office of the President established the Admissions by Exception policy in 1996. According to UCOP spokeswoman Ravi Poorsina, the way the program is implemented varies from campus to campus.

Part of the policy allows for students coming from disadvantaged backgrounds who do not meet the eligibility requirements to be admitted into a UC campus. The policy requires that no more than 4 percent of a campus’ applicants may be drawn from “disadvantaged students” and up to 2 percent from other students.

“One way of using the policy is by admitting students who may be from a high school without the resources, say a school that doesn’t offer a foreign language because it doesn’t have the money,” A.S. Vice President of Academic Affairs Harry Khanna said. “A student shouldn’t be penalized for this.”

There is no formal mechanism to track students admitted by exception because of the very small numbers. However, students accepted through the program are evaluated for their performance.

Rona-Tas said that the committee hopes to finalize its review and proposal at the end of the month. Once finalized, it will go before the entire Academic Senate for approval and could be implemented by the 2006-07 academic year.