Policy Could Change ‘a-g’ Reqs

The University of California Board of Admissions and
Relations with Schools recently developed a policy that seeks to change
decades-old eligibility requirements in order to better reflect the state’s
population.

The policy is currently under review by Academic Senate
committees at each UC campus. Any identified problems will be aggregated at the
systemwide B.O.A.R.S. Committee in Oakland on Dec. 7, before going to the
Academic Assembly and landing on the UC president’s desk for the UC Board of
Regents’ approval.

The state’s 1960 Master Plan for Education specifies that
the UC system draw from the top one-eighth of high school seniors for its
freshman class and encompass “the broad diversity of backgrounds characteristic
of California.”

According to Hans Paar, the chair of the Committee on
Admissions in the UCSD Academic Senate, 30 percent of students admitted come
from the top 10 percent of ranked schools in California, while few are from the
bottom 10 percent.

“We’re not following the directive well,” Paar said. “This
is not what the regents want.”

The proposed policy suggests changing eligibility standards
by leaving selection up to individual campuses. The most significant changes
are an elimination of the SAT II Subject Test requirement and the eligibility
index, which creates a combined GPA and SAT score minimum to apply. While
eligibility in the local context — the top 4 percent of each high school class
as determined by the University of California — will remain unaffected, no other
applicants will be guaranteed admission based on the statewide eligibility
criteria.

“As far as applicants are concerned, virtually everything
else remains unchanged,” B.O.A.R.S. Committee Chair Mark Rashid said in an
e-mail. “The SAT Subject Exam scores have been seen to contribute negligibly to
UC’s ability to predict who will do well at UC (as measured by freshman GPA).”

The new standards for eligibility, known as “entitled to
review,” require that seniors take 11 of the 15 “a-g” courses, maintain at least
a 2.8 GPA and submit SAT or ACT plus writing scores. This would permit 1.5
percent of California high school students who were previously ineligible to
apply, Paar said. While more students would have the opportunity to apply, the
number admitted would remain the same.

“Our impression of how [the UC campuses] admit students is
more people would be eligible, but I don’t think more people will be admitted,”
said Lori Walls, an Esperanza High School counselor. “There’s still a numbers
problem.”

Paar said that three of the four committees at UCSD
designated to examine the policy have reviewed the changes and identified some
negative aspects of the policy — particularly regarding the loss of guaranteed
admissions for all eligible students. The practice has provided a referral pool
for applicants who were rejected by every UC campus to which they applied,
which allows other schools, typically UC Riverside and UC Merced, to offer the
qualified candidates a space in their own freshman class. However, Paar said, few
students — only 6 percent — accept the offer, since they didn’t apply to the
school to which they were offered admission.

“We cannot force students to wish to come to UC, just by
altering admissions policies,” Rashid said. “What we can do and must do is
formulate those policies so that they are as fair as possible. UC has a
responsibility to do the best job it can at identifying who, among the state’s
high school graduates, are truly the most deserving of UC admission.”

As for the impact on UCSD, there would be an estimated 1.5
percent increase in the number of applications.

“The change in volume is very much unknown,” Vice Chancellor
of Admissions Mae W. Brown said. “We would look at each file comprehensively.”

Technically, admissions offices at each UC campus could
decide to keep their higher standards, Paar said. However, it allows students
who would have been otherwise very close to being eligible to apply. This
particularly affects schools that do not offer enough “a-g” courses or
counseling to inform students of UC eligibility requirements.

“Students with lower [socioeconomic status] are more likely
to be ineligible despite having high academic achievement; the hope is that the
proposed policy would encourage such students to apply,” Rashid said. “They
would then be assessed along with everyone else via campus-based
comp[rehensive] review.”

Paar said he agrees with Rashid, although he said that
there’s no exact way of knowing how much of an impact the proposed policy would
have. However, the possible changes still resonate with high school students
who would be affected if the regents adopt the policy.

“It would be more competitive,” said Veeral Patel, a senior
at Valencia High School who is currently applying to UC campuses. “It might be
harder to get into elite schools like [UC] Berkeley, UCLA and UCSD.”

The policy would have a “grandfathering clause,” Paar said,
which would provide two to three years to be fully adopted. And its overall
impact could be very important.

“The group that benefits the most are students that are
ethnic specific and students who are low-income specific,” California Student
Opportunity and Access Program Director Linda Doughty said. “This would
increase the diversity at UCSD. That’s what it’s all about.”