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.”

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