VOLUME 28 NO. 8 | FEBRUARY 14 - 20, 2009

Calif. state schools overhaul admissions policy

Last updated 2-12-09 at 9:49 a.m.

By Terence Chea
The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — On Feb. 5, the University of California’s governing board approved a major overhaul of its admissions policy that would expand the pool of undergraduate applicants but guarantee entry to fewer high-achieving students.

But critics say the new rules, which would reduce the number of students guaranteed admission based solely on their grades and test scores, are an attempt by the university system to circumvent a 1996 ballot measure that banned affirmative action at state institutions.

“The only possible reason for it, in my opinion, is to change the ethnic composition of the people attending the university,” said Jack Citrin, a political science professor at UC Berkeley. “My main objection is that it is clearly a lowering of the academic standard for eligibility at the University of California.”

Supporters of the plan denied the claim.

“You can’t get much fairer than this policy,” UC President Mark Yudof said. “We look at the whole student, and we look at more students. … It clearly will not diminish the quality of the students.”

Currently, the top 12.5 percent of the state’s high school graduates — as well as the top 4 percent at individual high schools — are guaranteed admission to at least one of the system’s 10 undergraduate campuses. Almost all students outside those groups are automatically rejected.

The revised qualification requirements would only guarantee admission for the top 9 percent statewide and the top 9 percent at each school.

The plan, which has been under development since 2004, also would allow admissions officers to consider achievements, application essays, and family and extracurricular activities of some students, as well as grades and test scores, when choosing students.

Officials said it would encourage more students to apply and could potentially increase the number of low-income and underrepresented minority students.

Some Asian American groups are concerned that the new rules could lead to the admission of fewer Asian American students, who made of 36 percent of applicants admitted in 2007–08. The Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus had urged the board to postpone the vote to allow more study of the plan’s impact on ethnic groups.

UC Regent Judith Hopkinson, who abstained from the vote, said she also wanted more time to study the changes because she was concerned they might have unintended consequences.

“Rather than being more inclusive, it could have the impact of being less inclusive because students from high-income places know how to present themselves in a way that will receive more favorable consideration,” Hopkinson said. “I don’t understand what problem we’re solving.”

The new standards take effect with the incoming class of fall 2012. (end)


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