State Schools Raise Enrollment Standards

Chancellor Charles B. Reed of the California State University system announced, among other revisions, plans to raise academic standards for entering freshmen for all state universities on Nov. 17. This came just days after reports presented to the University of California Regents on Nov. 12 showed that the system’s endowment has lost $1 billion in recent months, standing at an estimated $5.7 billion on Sept. 30, down from $6.7 billion as of Dec. 31, 2007.
It is not too far-fetched to see that the quality of the student body at universities in both the CSU and UC systems directly affects their endowments. After all, with smarter students comes the ability for greater achievement, which would ultimately attract more funding. Therefore, while one of Reed’s decisions, such as cutting 10,000 students, may not seem desirable at first sight, his aim to elevate California’s struggling college students is admirable.
Such motions, like making admission to California’s lower- tiered four-year universities more difficult, are sound for three primary reasons. First, as they stand, the minimum admission requirements for many of California’s lower-tiered four-year institutions are far below those held by other state institutions across the nation. Secondly, California has a great resource in the California Community College system, which is willing to work with both students and four-year institutions. Lastly, once a CSU or UC student earns one of these distinctions, they are entitled to the same basic resources as any other CSU or UC student in their specific institution, despite academic achievement.
Currently, little more than a 3.0 grade point average is needed for California residents to attend a school in the CSU system. Exams such as the SATs and ACTs are necessary for out-of-state students, but the student body of CSU schools is generally made up of only around 1 or 2 percent of out-of-state students. By placing so much emphasis on GPA – and not even a particularly high GPA – the CSU system’s student body is being watered down by individuals who cannot be bothered to take that extra step.
However, in no way should standardized testing be looked at as the final word in determining the ability of a student. But by not requiring students to take even a standardized test to attend a CSU school, the value of the CSU system in comparison to other state universities nationwide is diminished.
Take, for example, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Ranked highly across the board in terms of state universities, all Amherst students are required to take either the SAT I or an ACT exam prior to admission. Despite its stature among state universities, data released by the university in 2008 shows that the institution’s mean SAT scores among freshmen were between 510-620 in critical reading and 540-640 in math.
Now consider the fact that according to CollegeBoard figures in 2008 thus far, the average critical reading score was 502 and the average math score was 515. While both scores are below the lower portion of the mean scores of Amherst, they are not far out of reach and may very well be applicable to some, if not all CSU schools. Logic would dictate that it is possible that students who are deserving of attending a CSU school would be unaffected by such testing. Furthermore, the testing requirement would help keep out those below a more competitive bottom level for four-year institutions in California.
Admittedly, standardized testing is not for everyone and academic success can elude even the most cunning of students for one reason or another. Some students are born in less fortunate circumstances than others and for such reasons as these, the California community college system exists. Whether it’s optimizing your testing skills, earning those grades you failed to achieve in high school or building a support base, the CCC system has continually proven to be a valued asset to the state. Aside from offering a college experience for individuals who did not get accepted, could not afford it or just did not want to go to a four-year university, this system essntialy acts as a testing ground.
Beyond its own capacities, the CCC system also has connections to many four-year California institutions. For instance, the system is actively involved in the Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) program. TAG allows students admission to a number of four-year universities after they meet a certain set of requirements in a community college setting. In fact, seven UC institutions are involved with the TAG program, including UC Irvine.
While CCC system schools may be beneficial for students seeking higher education in California, it is also a testament to academic standards. CSU currently has roughly 450,000 students. With this massive student body, it must be noted that while academically gifted students have certain advantages, such as access to honors programs, by and large the same resources are just as available to that student with a 4.0 GPA as they are to that student narrowly avoiding academic probation.
California’s economy is currently a mess and its state universities are bound to bear some of the burden. Why continue to lug around those who refuse to carry their own weight?

Daniel Johnson is a fourth-year literary journalism and film and media studies double-major. He can be reached at dcjohnso@uci.edu.