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Issue of the Week: Tightening UA Admissions

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Illustration by Arnulfo Bermudez
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday Januay 29, 2003

As early as Fall 2004, high school seniors might face a new set of admission standards if President Pete Likins and the other two university presidents get their way. At last week's Arizona Board of Regents meeting, the university presidents and some regents expressed interest in granting automatic admission to fewer in-state students while allowing the schools to individualize admission decisions for the remaining bulk of prospective students. Under the proposal, only high school seniors who rank in the top 25 percent of their class would be awarded automatic admission, rather than 50 percent. The other proposal would automatically admit seniors based on various GPA, SAT or ACT scores.

As current UA students, what do you think?
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Steve Campbell

Grades, test scores don't determine potential

Being in the top 50 percent of your graduating class just isn't good enough anymore for Arizona high school seniors. Neither is a 2.5 GPA. And if you want to guarantee yourself a seat at UA, then you better bring that SAT score up to at least 1040.

On the surface, this looks like a sure way to keep some of Arizona's greatest young minds with bad test scores from even applying to UA. By taking a closer look, however, it is clear that these new standards will actually encourage more students to apply.

By allowing only the top 25 percent of high school seniors to gain automatic enrollment into UA, the university is actually providing more of an opportunity for those students, who graduated in the lower half of their class, a chance to sit with their peers as a Wildcat.

At a time when UA is making sweeping changes in its curriculum, the ability for the university to make individualized admissions decisions will play an important role in ensuring the best students are given the opportunity to attend, regardless of grades.

Sometimes, it takes more than good grades to determine a student's potential.

Steve Campbell is a senior majoring in Spanish. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.


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Phil Leckman

College should be a privilege, not a right

In the days when few Americans continued their education after high school, attending college usually signaled a real dedication to learning and self-improvement. While the huge increase in college attendance since World War II has had many benefits, it's also reduced the prestige once associated with a degree. For many current students, college is a rite of passage with little or nothing to do with learning or self-betterment. Since a degree usually equals a higher paycheck after graduation, they treat college as a tedious formality to be endured while expending as little effort as possible.

Such an attitude insults not just the university and its faculty but also the thousands of students for whom a college education still counts for something. The proposed admissions standards are reasonable, but go a long way towards ensuring that a UA education means more than a four-year holiday for the Cliff's Notes crowd. While some qualified, motivated students won't meet the minimum requirements, the proposed standards also give the administration more leeway to consider extenuating circumstances.

There will always be schools open to students who view college as nothing more than an extended party on their parents' dime. Hats off to President Likins for trying to make sure UA isn't one of them.

Phil Leckman is an anthropology graduate student. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.


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Kendrick Wilson

A web of tradeoffs

A necessary evil.

The idea of changing UA's admissions policy brings with it a complicated and tangled web of tradeoffs and unfortunate realities. While the current policy allows a greater number of students to attend UA, tightening admissions policies makes UA more of an elite institution dedicated to providing the best education.

The "freshman weed-out" has forced all too many students to drop out of college. While this phenomenon cannot entirely be blamed on loose admissions policies, they undoubtedly play a role.

In a perfect world, all interested people could get a good college education and could truly fulfill the American dream of doing whatever they choose. This world is far from perfect.

Fortunately, President Likins has proposed giving students who are members of a racial minority or whose families have a history of not attending college special consideration should admissions be tightened. If admissions are tightened, some students who might succeed in college will never be given the opportunity. It's never a good thing to keep people from attending college, but tightening admissions may be a necessary evil in order to preserve the integrity of UA.

Kendrick Wilson is a political science sophomore. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.


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Erik Flesch

Loftier admissions will equal excellence

If Focused Excellence is to live up to its name, UA must stick to its guns and promote excellence as the guiding principle in admissions, as much as in every other university function.

Excellence means recruiting students who have the character and foundation of knowledge to focus on university-level learning and research not on catching up or being socialized on someone else's dime. Excellent candidates demonstrate their desire to be here, not to fulfill a duty to family or society, but to satisfy a selfish, visceral passion to pursue a universal education.

Qualified students know that an education is neither a right nor an obligation, and that the ideas handed down by professors are the creation of dedicated individuals whose motivation was the joy of working in their field. They know that no subject is ever closed and are more interested in learning how to think for themselves than in conforming to any collective orthodoxy.

UA should make admissions reviews as individual as its budget allows, letting applicants' written statements, life experiences and test scores speak as loudly as their grades. Focusing on love and aptitude for university work not race or socioeconomic demographic is the just recipe for UA excellence.

Erik Flesch is a geosciences junior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.


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Bill Wetzel

New standards can acheive wider UA goals

The proposal of tightening admission standards for Arizona high school students at the three state universities brings to light the issue of flexibility. In order to be recognized as an elite academic university, President Likins needs to admit students who can succeed. Under both possible scenarios presented to the Arizona Board of Regents, students in the top 25 percent of their classes would gain automatic admission to all three universities. They have proven the ability to succeed academically and deserve that right.

Other applicants would be evaluated on sets of intangibles, such as leadership qualities, minority status or a family history with no prior history of college attendance.

In constricting admission standards, Likins will be able to both secure students who would be admitted in the first place and use non-traditional characteristics to include admission for students with the best chance of graduating. Students who are excluded in this process would probably be best served seeking out other options, such as community college, then retry admission once they are better prepared for success.

This flexibility and adherence to a higher standard increases the prospects of student achievement and attaining the goal of streamlining UA into a top-flight, financially independent, research university.

Bill Wetzel is a creative writing and political science junior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu


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Caitlin Hall

We haven't got a clue

Every facet of Focused Excellence cries out for a disclaimer. The need is subtle and tricky and downright deceiving for one unacquainted with bureaucratic semantics. Without really understanding why, we condition, qualify and clarify ad nauseum on behalf of the hypothetical philosophy that's supposedly the savior of our university.

The problem became clear when I asked one news editor what she thought of the plan. "I don't really know," she confessed. "They haven't really told us anything."

And it's true. Rather than dealing with concrete plans and numbers, the administration chooses to deal in abstract, undefined concepts of diversity, excellence and special considerations. We know what, by Likins' admission, Focused Excellence is not: mergers and reconfigurations, budget cuts or program eliminations. But we are left to grapple with a plan that for all purposes does not exist a figment of our imaginations.

So what of higher admissions standards? They're a good idea in principle, because in principle, they would support the administration's new mission. And in principle, ASU would pick up the students who don't make the cut. But anything I could say about the proposals being promoted in ABOR would be arbitrary conjecture. Read them and you might miss it. But try to explain what they mean in real terms, and you'll discover you're trying to pin down a phantom philosophy.

Caitlin Hall is a biochemistry and philosophy sophomore. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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