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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Lowering the bar

 

The University of California system possesses one of the most diverse and unique student populations that can be found across American college campuses. Despite their many differences, there’s one thing that all UC students have in commonthey’ve had to study hard to get where they are. Since the system’s inception, potential students have known that countless hours of studying, strong SAT scores, and extracurricular involvement were all required to ensure a spot at one of the premier public universities in the country.

However, all of this may soon change, as the UC system prepares to lower its standards in order to increase accessibility for some of California’s more academically challenged youths.

According to the current set of standards, admission to one of the nine UC campuses requires a minimum GPA of 3.0, and is only guaranteed to students ranked in the top 12.5 percent of graduating California seniors or the top 4 percent of their high schools graduating senior class.

Recently, the UC’s Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS) and Academic Senate have developed a revised set of admission standards that are not only unfair to California students, but will entitle under-performing individuals to the same education that current UC students had to work so hard to earn.

Perhaps the most drastic revision to the eligibility standards would be the lowering of the required GPA from 3.0 to 2.8. Should this revision be voted through, UC administrators will effectively be saying that a C average in one of California’s public schools, which consistently rank as some of the worst in the nation, will make a student eligible for admission to one of the UC’s top-tier campuses. Should a student be unable to meet this mark of academic mediocrity, they will have the option of denotingentitled to reviewon their application, meaning that they will still be considered for admission regardless of their sub-par performance in high school.

The proposed revisions would also tinker with the guidelines set forth in 1960s California’s Master Plan of Higher Education, which assigned the UC the responsibility of selecting its incoming freshman class from the top one-eighth (12.5 percent) of graduating California seniors. Under the new guidelines, this number would be reduced to 9.7 percent, which initially appears to make admission to the UC system more competitive. However, this number is only being lowered to make way for the massive influx of students who do not achieve the required statewide ranking, but will receive guaranteed admissions due to increased ELC, or Eligibility in Local Context, standards.

ELC standards were initially put in place to accommodate students from under-performing high schools who were unable to meet the quality standards set forth in California’s Master Plan of Higher Education. Currently, in order for a student to be designated ELC, they must rank in the top 4 percent of their high schools graduating senior class. Under the revised eligibility requirements the ELC range would be increased to 9 percent, meaning that nearly a tenth of all graduating seniors in California would be guaranteed admissions to at least one UC campus.

Under the new eligibility standards, it would appear as if students attending failing schools would have less competition and therefore have an easier time attending UC.

When asked to justify their proposed eligibility requirements, the Academic Senate cited the need to increase diversity across the UC system. While these revised standards would almost certainly increase diversity on the UC campuses, they would also have catastrophic effects on the level of academic performance of lower ranked UC campuses such as Merced and Riverside. Hopefully, UC administrators will realize that diversity and high academic performance are not mutually exclusive, and abandon this quest to reduce the UC system to a pathetic form of academic welfare.

 

JAMES NOONAN isn’t worried about angry high schools responding to his article. In fact, considering the current state of California schools, he’d be surprised if most high school students can even read. Angry comments can be sent to jjnoonan@ucdavis.edu

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