UC System May Alter Eligibility Requirements

Academic Senate Proposal Seeks to Expand the Number of Students Eligible to Apply to UC

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The University of California is considering a proposal to dramatically alter the eligibility requirements for students seeking admission to the UC system.

The proposal, put forth by the UC Academic Senate's Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools, seeks to offer a broader admission guarantee to in-state high school graduates by expanding the number of students who are eligible to apply to all of the 10 UC campuses.

As it stands, students applying to the system must have a GPA of at least 3.0, have completed or enrolled in 15 approved college preparatory A-G courses and score adequately on an SAT subject test, as well as the SAT or ACT.

The proposal, which would take effect for freshmen enrolling in fall 2012, would lower the minimum GPA to 2.8, reduce the number of required A-G courses to 11 and eliminate the SAT subject test requirement. Students who fall within the top 9 percent of their high-school class or within the top 9 percent of California's graduating seniors, by a combination of GPA and test scores, would be guaranteed admission to at least one UC campus.

The proposal was passed by the UC Academic Assembly, which represents the faculty, and will be considered by the UC Board of Regents in July.

Mark Rashid, a UC Davis civil and environmental engineering professor who chairs the admissions board, said most of the opposition to the proposal is rooted in a fear of change, not in widespread support for the current system.

"I haven't heard anybody reject the proposal based on the merits of the current system," he said.

The motivation behind the proposed changes stems from a growing concern that the structure of the current system overlooks students that are highly qualified, but haven't fulfilled the requirements, according to the proposal.

David Stern, the UC Berkeley representative on the board of admissions, said that while the new system is not necessarily a promise of admission, it is a guarantee that applicants will be considered by at least one of the campuses.

Additionally, the proposal said it seeks to give UC campuses more freedom to review the individual merits and circumstance of its applicants, instead of relying on a set formula to determine the quality of a student.

Stern suggested that the tools used to evaluate students are flawed. Extensive data outlined in the board's proposal exposes the relatively minimal predictive power of the SAT subject test in determining the quality of a candidate.

Rashid said that while more selective campuses such as UC Berkeley, UCLA and UC Santa Barbara will notice very little change if the proposal is passed, less selective campuses can expect to see many more qualified applicants in their pool.

Stern said critics of the proposal fear the changes will disproportionately affect minorities, but he insists that it is too soon to tell.

"It depends how each campus uses comprehensive review," he said. "What is certain is that the pool of students identified in the new proposal is more representative of the California population, which means that there are larger percentages of students from across the spectrum of high schools."

If the proposal is passed, the UC system is likely to see a higher number of total applicants, including those from racial and ethnic minority backgrounds, according to the proposal.

Rashid maintains that concern about embedded prejudice in the policy is "one big, fat non-issue." In fact, he said, current policy is more detrimental to minorities than the new one would be.

"Students that are ineligible based on these technical reasons are disproportionately minorities," he said.


Contact Anna Widdowson at [email protected]

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