UC Panel Advocates Admission Alterations

    “”Who should be admitted into the largest and most prestigious public [university] system in the world, and how should these decisions be made?””

    This was the focal question raised and addressed in a recent report released by a panel of UC professors, which proposes a new process for UC admissions. The revised system would emphasize factors such as personal achievement as opposed to academic measures of talent like GPA and SAT scores. The system would be geared toward admitting a broader range of talent more representative of California’s diverse population, the panel said. The implementation would mean a shift from the long-standing 40-year UC eligibility process.

    The new system was first presented at a conference that marked the 10th anniversary of Proposition 209, which was responsible for prohibiting the consideration of race in public university admissions. The legislation was also responsible for the dramatic decrease of minority representation in UC schools in 1998, directly following its enactment. As the socioeconomic achievement gap widens, the trend of extending admissions to a disproportionate number of students from high-income backgrounds continues to persist.

    Conference attendees criticized the current admissions process as inadequate in ensuring the maximum visibility of UC-qualified students and in identifying the top 12.5 percent of graduating high school students guaranteed UC admission under the system’s eligibility standards.

    “”According to recent studies, it has been found that California high schools that produce only 20 [percent] of the state’s graduates account for almost half (47 percent) of UC freshman admission offers in 2001-04,”” UC Office of the President Director of Undergraduate Admissions Susan B. Wilbur stated in an e-mail.

    Due to what UC officials see as a growing inequality, the report, titled “”California at the Crossroads: Confronting the Looming Threat to Achievement, Access and Equity at the University of California and Beyond,”” proposes a different way of measuring eligibility ratings.

    It proposes a “”comprehensive review,”” considering the personal accomplishments and drive of students who would otherwise be excluded because of low academic achievement. This would mean that students who have taken required courses and have met the basic standards of qualification would still be fully evaluated, but those barely meeting the minimum GPA would not be automatically rejected.

    According to UC Santa Barbara education professor and study co-author Michael Brown, admissions policy should identify students likely to succeed in the UC system, apportion admission offers fairly and equitably and show students how to adequately prepare for a college education.

    “”We believe UC can do much better on each of these fronts,”” Brown stated in an e-mail.

    Studies have shown that raw test scores and high GPAs are not necessarily the main predictors of a student’s collegiate success. And, with UC Berkeley already adopting a more accommodating and flexible eligibility approach, the UC Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools could likely adopt a similar approach to the one set forth in the report.

    Though the plans are premature, B.O.A.R.S. will likely review its options during the 2006-07 year, and further recommend more extensive plans to be approved by the Academic Senate, according to Brown.

    Though academic accomplishment would still be held at a traditionally high precedent among UC campuses, “”there are better alternative admissions practices that do not involve granting preferences on the basis of demographic characteristics, alternatives that have come to be the standard among the most selective higher education institutions in the country,”” Brown stated in an e-mail.

    Readers can contact Sonia Minden at [email protected].

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