Athree-day meeting of the University of California Board of Regents held last week at UCSB ended with talks that could have substantial impacts on the undergraduate entrance requirements for the statewide system’s nine undergraduate campuses.
The regents, UC’s 26-member governing board, met the proposed changes-which “encourage a broader pool of applicants,” according to a fact sheet submitted to the regents by the UC Academic Senate-with both enthusiasm and skepticism. On the table were eliminating the SAT II or Subject Test requirement, lowering the grade-point average (GPA) entry requirement, and also accepting fewer students under the guaranteed admission rule. That rule currently mandates that the top 10 percent of every high school’s graduates get a spot at a UC campus if they apply.
Most controversial was the elimination of the SAT Subject exams. Currently, UC applicants must take at least two of these subject-specific tests-usually in writing, history, or math-to demonstrate their knowledge of the topic and their writing abilities. The rationale behind eliminating the requirement for the SAT Subject exams is rooted in new data that shows one-third of California high school students take the SAT I test, but far fewer go on to take the Subject exams. According to the fact sheet, UC hypothesizes that this results in otherwise qualified students not applying, likely because they don’t know about the Subject exam requirement.
The regents’ discussion became quite tense at times Wednesday afternoon, as many boardmembers held polar-opposite positions on the admissions changes. However, they appeared to agree on one thing: that they must evaluate the issue cautiously. “[This proposal] is one of the most consequential things the regents can approve,” said UC President Mark Yudof. The majority of the discussion about the changes to the admissions requirements was by its critics, such as Regent Judith Hopkinson, who worried about a provision to lower the minimum grade point average of incoming students. She said it could have a ripple effect on the state’s K-12 schools, theoretically because students would not have to work as hard as they once did to be admitted to a UC.
If approved, the proposal wouldn’t take effect until fall admissions 2012.