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Group fears drop in UA accessibility

By Ryan Johnson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday December 10, 2002

Likins proposes diversity increase to reassure concerned groups who fear Focused Excellence could result in fewer Hispanics being admitted

President Pete Likins' proposals to raise tuition and admissions standards as part of Focused Excellence have raised concerns from members of the UA's Hispanic community, who say the new standards and higher tuition may cause Hispanic enrollment rates to drop.

Administrators counter that, contrary to some groups' fears, they will be able to maintain and eventually increase the population of minority students on campus.

Minority advocacy groups, such as the Juntos Student Advisory Council, which works to ensure that Hispanic students are represented in groups across campus, worry that the biggest loser in the university's plans will be underrepresented groups.

"We are supposed to be providing access to underprivileged individuals," said Veronica Martinez, co-chair of the Movimiento Estudiantil de Chicanos de Aztlán and a Juntos member. "As a land grant institution, we're supposed to serve the population. If they're going to make it more difficult to get in, how do they expect Arizona students to get in when our K-12 education is so substandard?"

Likins and other administrators said they understand Juntos' concerns and have promised that they will commit themselves to recruiting a diverse student body.

"I've told (Juntos) that we will regard Focused Excellence as a failure if we don't increase diversity," Likins said.

Members of Juntos question the administrators' commitment. They argue that even now, before raising tuition and admissions standards, the university doesn't focus on underrepresented groups enough.

Thirteen percent of all undergraduate, graduate and first professional students who attended the UA in fall 2001 identified themselves as Hispanic, according to the UA Fact Book

Martinez said she wants more than a promise to retain and bring in more Hispanic students.

"They haven't been specific with their requirement changes. They haven't been specific with anything yet," Martinez said.

Likins said that although Juntos wants him to present a five-year plan, he won't implement specific plans anytime in the near future.

"There won't be radical change in the admissions standard in the fall of '03, the fall of '04, and the fall of '05 for that matter," Likins said.

As the university attracts more top Hispanic students, Likins said the UA will become a Hispanic-serving institution, where 25 percent of the student body is Hispanic, half of whom would come from underprivileged homes.

To attract top Hispanic students, administrators plan to increase financial aid and scholarships available to those students, said vice president for campus life Saunie Taylor.

"There are a large percentage of underrepresented groups in the transfer pipeline," she said. "We are going to increase our efforts to get them to transfer (to the UA)."

Likins proposes to defer more students to community colleges over the long term in hopes that they'll transfer back as juniors. He cites studies stating that while 50 percent of students all students graduate, 65 percent of transfer students graduate.

Taylor said that the admissions office is pursuing more flexibility. Ten percent of students who are admitted now have a high likelihood of failure, she said.

With the extra spaces for new students, the university can look at other factors such as extenuating circumstances in accepting students and could accept more transfer students, Taylor said.

Taylor said that these plans will promote cultural diversity.

"The president wants to expand the criteria enough so that underrepresented students will still have the ability to be here."

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