Regents Discuss Admission Criteria
PLAN: Board debates proposal to admit top 4 percent of seniors form each California high school

UCSD Guardian News
May 18, 1998

LOS ANGELES -- The UC Board of Regents discussed last Thursday a new admissions proposal that would admit the top 4 percent of graduating seniors of each California public high school.

Tentatively dubbed the "UC Merit Scholars" program, the proposal would provide access to 3,500 to 3,600 additional students per year.

UC Riverside Professor Keith Widaman, chair of the UC Board on Admissions and Relations with Schools (B.O.A.R.S.), presented the proposal to the regents at their monthly meeting.

Widaman said the proposal represents "the most radical and fundamental change in the Master Plan ... in more than 30 years."

The California Master Plan for Higher Education calls for the University of California to admit the top 12.5 percent of all graduates from the state's public high schools.

Current admissions criteria require students to achieve a 3.3 GPA in 15 "a-f" classes. Students with GPAs between 2.82 and 3.29 can still qualify for admission with above-average Scholastic Assessment Test (S.A.T.) or American College Test (A.C.T.) scores.

Under the new proposal, the top 4 percent of graduating high school seniors from each high school would qualify for university admission -- provided that they completed 11 of the 15 "a-f" courses by the end of their junior year.

Students admitted under the plan would have to complete all 15 "a-f" courses and take the S.A.T. or A.C.T. before graduating from high school.

Although the test scores would not be considered in determining their eligibility status, the scores might affect which campus that the students would attend.

Widaman said B.O.A.R.S. is also considering changing some of the existing admissions requirements, including reducing or eliminating the use of additional points for honors or advanced-placement courses.

Widaman commented that the majority of the 3,500 to 3,600 students that would be eligible under the program would come from large urban schools and small rural schools across the state.

UC President Richard Atkinson said the proposal would encourage schools to improve their "a-f" course offerings.

"This sends out a message to lots of schools that there's opportunity here," Atkinson said. "It's not easy to be in the top 4 percent of your class."

Several regents, including Ward Connerly, voiced concerns about automatically admitting students from every high school.

"I think you've got to give us more reassurance that quality is not going to be affected," Connerly told Widaman.

Other regents expressed fears that the new proposal would not encourage high schools to increase the quality of their programs, or that parents would move their children to schools that are less demanding so they would be in the top 4 percent.

Widaman said that simulations show the new criteria would slightly increase the eligibility rates of African-American, Hispanic and Native-American students from 11 percent of the overall UC eligibility pool to 12 percent.

The proposal has been sent to high school principals and district superintendents for review and comments. It is also being reviewed by campus groups.

Widaman said the proposal could be voted on by the regents as early as July.