College for the unprepared

University of California plans to open admissions to students who haven’t completed the required sequence of college-prep courses or those who haven’t taken SAT IIs (Achievement Tests back in the day). UC campuses would consider these previously ineligible applicants’ “backgrounds” and “extracurricular activities.” The proposal also includes automatic admission for students graduating in the top 9 percent of their high school class, regardless of their SAT scores. It’s estimated 20 percent of high school graduates would be eligible for consideration, though only students in the top 9.7 percent — as determined by an index of grades and test scores — would be guaranteed admission somewhere. Currently, the top 12.5 percent are guaranteed admission, though not necessarily to the campus of their choice. It is very hard to get into Berkeley, UCLA, San Diego and Davis, somewhat easier at Irvine, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz and easiest of all at Merced and Riverside.

Mark Rashid, a Davis professor who chaired the faculty committee, claims that “many” ineligible applicants “have higher GPA’s and test scores than the average for those who do get in.”

I wonder how many have higher grades and scores. Do they have higher grades in equally rigorous classes? How many have higher SAT I or ACT scores?

I’d also like to see a list of high schools so dysfunctional that students with high grades and high scores aren’t told to take the A-G courses, which are required by both UC and the second-tier California State University system. Why not do something about high schools that fail to prepare their best students for college?

The goal of the proposed changes is to make more Hispanic and black students eligible for consideration.

Likely result? More UC students will have to take remedial English or math; more will fail to earn a degree.

Note that UC is California’s elite system of universities for the best students in the state. Bright, motivated students who don’t qualify for a UC can start at a community college, do well and transfer to a UC.

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Comments

  1. I’d also like to see a list of high schools so dysfunctional that students with high grades and high scores aren’t told to take the A-G courses, which are required by both UC and the second-tier California State University system. Why not do something about high schools that fail to prepare their best students for college?

    When my older brother was a freshman in high school he signed up for the A-G courses. The Counselor told him he didn’t need to take those course to go to a UC. Fortunately he ignorned them, fortunately I ignored them. Unfortunately, our oldest brother didn’t know to ignore the counselors. He wasn’t able to go to a UC, but my other brother and I did. The brother who went to a UC for undergrad, also went to a UC for law school. We were all smart enough for a UC, but apparently, the counselor didn’t think we fit the profile.

    Something needs to done about the elementary, middle and high schools that fail to prepare their students.

  2. “Likely result? More UC students will have to take remedial English or math; more will fail to earn a degree.

    Exactly.

  3. ucladavid says:

    There is also the cal state system, which my sister is currently going to. For many students, it is just as good or even better than a UC. It is also where I got my teaching credential.

  4. Andrew H. says:

    You would think that the UC system was starving for applicants with the way that some of these proposals are written. I would think that the schools are already selective enough and that they already turn away plenty of qualified applicants.

  5. Andromeda says:

    I’d also like to see a list of high schools so dysfunctional that students with high grades and high scores aren’t told to take the A-G courses…

    That doesn’t seem all that dysfunctional to me.

    I mean, it does seem completely and unacceptably dysfunctional compared to any rational standard of how high schools ought to work. But it doesn’t seem unusually dysfunctional compared to what I would expect schools are actually doing. My reference point here is the high school I went to — a Blue Ribbon school, arguably the best high school in my state (not CA), with a fair number of high-achieving students. We had 4 guidance counselors for 1300 students, so they pretty much didn’t talk to you, period. (I talked to mine before my senior year only because I made an effort to do so.) 3 of them were well known to be useless if you wanted to go to college out-of-state; they just didn’t know anything about the options, and if you were going to college out-of-state obviously you were so smart you could figure it out on your own, plus which you intimidated them. (My guidance counselor was the other one. She *wasn’t*, technically, but I assigned her to myself when going out of my way to talk to her. And even she couldn’t give me a whole lot of help; I did figure it out on my own, but the list of things I didn’t know flabbergasts me now. (There are books that describe hundreds of colleges? You can study for standardized tests? And, of course, this was before everyone had a web page, so no help there.))

    There were astonishing guidance resources in the small prep school where I taught, and I’m sure the affluent public schools in the area have such things too, but I don’t expect much out of guidance departments outside of wealthy areas. Unfortunately.

  6. I had two outstanding African-American students in my class over the last couple of years who were interested in UC schools who decided not to apply because they lacked a required credit in Fine Arts, I’m pretty sure it was. (They complete a pretty standard College Prep/AP curriculum, had great test scores, and had no trouble with admission at other elite colleges.)

    Perhaps this is the kind of lack of required courses that the UC schools are going to be willing to consider, rather than a lack of actual academic core.

    Maybe the drop in percentage of automatic acceptances is related to a desire to take more out of state kids who were ineligible for consideration but who may inflate both the average test scores and the minority enrollment numbers?

  7. I’d worry more about this if it weren’t for the fact that this is all window dressing. Unless UCB is planning on becoming dramatically less competitive, this is all crap. UCs will still have to accept more qualified students first, which means that Riverside will just be more of a s***hole than it is now, but nothing much else.

    It’s all crap. If they ever seriously started accepting kids with an average of 400 SATs and no subject tests over kids with 650 average SATs and subjects, one of two things would occur: a lawsuit or a complete removal of taxpayer support for UCs.

    They want to make themselves feel better by having a policy that allows them to pretend to accept more incompetents than they already are. There are tons of incompetent URMs with the requisite a-g classes, top 4%, and SAT subject tests in the low 300s–far more than the UCs could ever accomodate. It’s all window dressing.

    That said, I’m glad my kid will be graduating before 2012, just in case they do manage to destroy the system.

  8. In NZ at my first year of uni I knew a girl who had wanted to do engineering, but couldn’t, as her guidance counsellor had told her that maths with statistics was a pre-req but not maths with calculus. That was of course totally the wrong way around.

  9. Catch Thirty-Three says:

    All this chatter about guidance counselors I have read in the comments here remind me of my own experience. Guidance counselors in high school, at least the ones I dealt with, were out to discourage me from attending college, in my opinion. I finally extracted some testing information (how to file for taking the SAT and here in TX, the TASP which was needed for TX public universities)from one which was like pulling teeth. The most helpful voice I had in high school in regards to attending college was a history teacher who pointed me in the right direction.

  10. I read this as an admission (pardon the pun) by UC that there is a sub-set of (potentially highly-abled) students that don’t *technically* meet requirements, but, with a minimum of “hand-holding” can flourish within a quality higher-education setting. Thus, they are taking into account that the past educational environment of said students has been less than stellar, but that they could cull the top percentage of such students, and provide a better opportunity for all — the students themselves, the campus and society as a whole.

    I see this as a win-win situation.

    Give “highly-marginal” students a chance, at a very low cost to society.

  11. I read this as an admission (pardon the pun) by UC that there is a sub-set of (potentially highly-abled) students that don’t *technically* meet requirements, but, with a minimum of “hand-holding” can flourish within a quality higher-education setting.

    There are no such kids. Seriously. Any kid who has genuine ability and doesn’t need handholding is able to get at least a 550 on each section of the SAT and will be capable of getting at minimum 500 on the SAT Lit and Math 2c Subject tests–even if they sat in school every year and did nothing.

    If they can’t make those scores, then they would need extensive handholding.

    But like I said–the UCs can fill their quotas of low income underperforming kids who aren’t capable of doing college work from their existing standards. This is all about the pretense that they are expanding their efforts.

  12. At my (state) university I had a student who wanted, after university, to attend post-graduate school in a highly competitive field which requires math and physics to be taken at university. The guidance counselor had specifically said ‘you have enough math already for that’, so on the advice of this guidance counselor, this student stopped after Algebra II and didn’t take Precalc senior year.

    Guidance counselors quite often either have no idea or don’t care what’s actually necessary. Often again, they are overworked and don’t have enough time to advise students. There’s a gigantic difference between a student who was misadvised and so lacking a fine arts credit or a foreign language credit, or told by a counselor not to bother with SAT IIs, and a student who simply lacks the intellectual capacity/work ethic to attend university.

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