Thursday, September 23, 2004
Brad Hayward (510) 987-9200


Acting to keep the University of California aligned with state policy, the UC Board of Regents today (Sept. 23) increased the minimum high school grade point average required for UC freshman eligibility from 2.8 to 3.0, effective with the fall 2007 entering class.

The Regents acted in response to a recent report by the California Postsecondary Education Commission that found 14.4 percent of California public high school graduates achieved UC eligibility in 2003, up from 11.1 percent in 1996. The California Master Plan for Higher Education sets UC’s target at 12.5 percent.

While the 14.4 percent finding was good news about the improving academic preparation of public school students in California, it also obliged the UC faculty to develop a plan to bring the University’s requirements into closer conformance with the Master Plan. The final proposal, based on the faculty recommendations, was sent to the board by UC President Robert C. Dynes.

“Student access to the University of California is crucial to the future of the state, and tightening our eligibility standards is a difficult thing to do,” said George Blumenthal, chair of the systemwide Academic Council. “Our faculty worked in very committed fashion to develop a plan that would emphasize academic achievement in high school, have the least negative impact on any one demographic group, and provide adequate notice of the changes to students.”

The Regents’ vote was 14-6.

In addition to the GPA change, the Regents previously adopted two procedural changes that also will reduce eligibility but generally should not be noticed by students. These changes, which take effect in 2005, are described further at www.ucop.edu/news/archives/2004/jul15.htm.

Together with the procedural changes, the increased minimum GPA is expected to reduce the statewide eligibility rate for UC to approximately 12.8 percent. In 2006, student performance data from the new SAT I and ACT standardized tests will become available. Those data, and data on the effects of the procedural changes taking effect in 2005, will be analyzed before the GPA increase takes effect in 2007, giving the Regents an opportunity to make further adjustments to eligibility criteria if necessary. Any higher eligibility criteria would be phased in so as to give appropriate notice before such additional changes took effect.

Because GPA is calculated on the basis of the UC-required “a-g” courses taken in the sophomore and junior years, the Regents’ action gives entering high school sophomores a clear sense of what will be expected if they are to achieve UC eligibility when they enter college in 2007. The minimum required GPA will remain at 2.8 until that year.

However, students should view the 2.8 and 3.0 levels purely as a minimum, not as a final goal. In reality, about 75 percent of UC-eligible applicants present GPAs of 3.5 or more, and admission to many UC campuses generally requires a high school GPA much higher than 3.0. (Achieving UC eligibility historically has guaranteed a student a place somewhere in the UC system, though not necessarily at the campus of choice.)

“For students, these adjustments essentially mean that they need to continue working hard, taking challenging courses in high school, and achieving in those courses to the best of their ability,” said M.R.C. Greenwood, UC provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “We do need to increase our eligibility requirements to stay consistent with state policy, but we have tried to do so in a way that does not make any precipitous changes for our applicants. Working hard in school is still the foundation for earning a place at UC.”

It is estimated that increasing the minimum GPA from 2.8 to 3.0 will remove approximately 700 to 750 students from the UC eligibility pool. (In 2003, more than 48,000 students were UC-eligible.) However, some students in the UC eligibility pool ultimately choose not to apply to or enroll at the University of California.

“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 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.”

The Academic Senate’s proposal focused on adjustments in high school GPA, rather than an increase in minimum test scores or other changes, 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. The reduced eligibility is expected to be spread across students of all ethnic backgrounds.

The GPA proposal adopted by the Regents is available at http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/regents/regmeet/sep04/304.pdf.

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