Thursday, July 15, 2004
Hanan Eisenman (510) 587-6194
Brad Hayward (510) 987-9195


The University of California Board of Regents today (July 15) approved two adjustments to UC's eligibility standards for freshman applicants, effective with the fall 2005 entering class, to help keep the size of the university's eligibility pool aligned with the 12.5 percent target in the California Master Plan for Higher Education.

However, the board delayed action on two other eligibility changes proposed by UC's faculty for the fall 2007 entering class, including an increase in the minimum high school grade point average (GPA) required for UC eligibility. The board is expected to reconsider the issue at a special meeting in mid-August, yet to be scheduled.

" Some members of the board have requested the courtesy of a one-month delay in consideration of the GPA increase portion of the proposed eligibility changes, so as to allow them to become fully briefed about this aspect of the proposal and to allow for greater public communication about the recommendations," UC President Robert C. Dynes told the regents on Wednesday. "For these reasons, we are amending our approach to this item.

" I believe this approach will allow us to move forward with communicating final eligibility changes to students, schools and the broader public beginning in September -- when there is great focus on admissions issues and we hold our annual conferences with high school counselors -- while ensuring adequate public discussion before a final vote."

The Board of Regents approved the first two eligibility changes, which are largely procedural in nature, without objection. The full package of eligibility changes was proposed by the Academic Senate, the representative body of the UC faculty.

Every few years, the California Postsecondary Education Commission (CPEC) assesses where UC stands in relation to the Master Plan provision that the top 12.5 percent of the state's graduating public high school students be considered eligible for UC. In May 2004, CPEC issued a new report estimating that, in the class of 2003, 14.4 percent of the graduating public high school class had achieved UC's eligibility requirements, up from 11.1 percent in 1996. The Academic Senate proposal was designed to return UC to the 12.5 percent level in state policy.

" Reducing the size of our eligibility pool is not a happy task, because we all know that access to a high-quality college education is critical to the future of California and its people," said Lawrence Pitts, chair of the systemwide Academic Council. "But the faculty have worked to craft a proposal that achieves this reduction sensibly, by placing a priority on academic achievement in school and avoiding a dramatic impact on any single group of students."

" Eligibility" refers to the basic academic requirements needed for admission to the UC system. UC's statewide freshman eligibility criteria include: (1) completion of the "a-g" pattern of college-preparatory courses in high school; (2) the grade point average (GPA) achieved in those courses in the 10th and 11th grades; and (3) scores on standardized tests, including the SAT I or ACT plus three SAT II subject tests. An "Eligibility Index" defines the combination of these grades and test scores required for UC eligibility. Students also can become UC-eligible by being in the top 4 percent of the class in their own school based on their grades in the a-g courses, a process known as "Eligibility in the Local Context" (ELC) or by scoring very high on required admission tests, known as "Eligibility by Examination Alone."

Historically, achieving eligibility has meant a guaranteed spot at one of UC's campuses, though not necessarily the campus of choice. Campuses select their incoming students from among the eligible applicants, using a process called "comprehensive review" that considers multiple indicators, both quantitative and qualitative, of academic and personal achievement.

The two eligibility changes approved by the Board of Regents for implementation with the fall 2005 entering class are:

- Ensure GPA is calculated in a manner reflecting performance in all a-g courses in the 10th and 11th grades. For students who take more than the minimum number of required a-g courses, the university's official method of calculating GPA for eligibility purposes reflects only the best combination of grades a student achieved in a given subject. However, students are advised to estimate their own GPA using all a-g courses taken; campuses use all a-g courses taken when they calculate GPA for purposes of selection; and ELC students already are evaluated for eligibility using all a-g courses taken. This change to reflect performance in all a-g courses for purposes of eligibility brings consistency to UC's practices.

- Require ELC students to complete UC's course and testing requirements in order to be considered eligible. Students who are notified at the beginning of their senior year that they are in the top 4 percent of their school currently are required to complete the statewide course and test requirements before they enroll at UC. This change will not consider them eligible until they do so. The change will not alter the actual requirements for ELC students, only the timing of when they officially become eligible.

The Academic Senate made two other proposals for implementation with the fall 2007 entering class. The regents delayed action on these proposals and will likely consider them at their meeting in September. They are:

- Increase minimum GPA required for all eligible students from 2.8 to 3.1. The new minimum might differ slightly from 3.1 and would be determined after analysis of student results from new standardized tests (the new SAT I and ACT with writing) that will be introduced for the fall 2006 entering class.

- Adjust the Eligibility Index as needed to bring UC's eligibility rate to 12.5 percent. This means that, once the above adjustments are taken into consideration, the "sliding scale" of grades and test scores required for UC eligibility would be adjusted as much or as little as necessary in order to achieve the 12.5 percent target eligibility rate, factoring in the effect of the new standardized tests.

The Academic Senate also has recommended that its Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools conduct further research into the potential effects of expanding the ELC (4 percent) program to some larger percentage, given the academic quality and breadth of student representation the program fosters.

The Academic Senate's proposal focused on adjustments in high school GPA, rather than increasing minimum test-score requirements, because simulations showed that adjustments to GPA were the most effective way to increase the expected UC academic performance of the eligible class and had the least negative impact on populations that are now underserved at UC.

By necessity, the adjustments mean fewer students would become UC-eligible, in order to reduce the eligibility pool from 14.4 percent of the public high school graduating class to 12.5 percent. However, the reduced eligibility rates are expected to be spread across all ethnic groups.

The full proposal of the Academic Senate is available at: http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/regents/regmeet/july04/302.pdf.

A fact sheet summarizing the proposal is at http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/factsheets/Revised_Criteria.pdf.

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