Senate Source

March 2009


UC to Enter a New Era in Undergraduate Admissions


The undergraduate admissions reform proposal studied, modified, and debated by UC Senate faculty over the past six years will become a reality in 2012. The Board of Regents voted to endorse the proposal on February 5.


Admissions Reform

Michael T. Brown, President Yudof, Sylvia Hurtado, Mary Croughan, and Mark Rashid after the February 4 Regents meeting.

The new policy is one of the most important changes to UC admissions and one of the most visible policy proposals to emerge from the Academic Senate in years. It will take effect for the fall 2012 entering class and will entitle all California freshman applicants to a comprehensive review of their applications if they meet three minimum markers of college readiness:



“The new guidelines will increase the opportunity for a comprehensive and fair review while maintaining the high standards that are the bedrock of the UC system,” said Academic Senate Chair Mary Croughan. “We believe these new standards will advance excellence and fairness and eliminate unnecessary barriers to admission. UC will be able to cast a wider net so that our campuses can select from a larger and more diverse pool of students. The overall effect will be to increase UC’s promise of excellence and opportunity.”


All students designated “Entitled to Review” according to the three criteria will have their applications forwarded to individual UC campuses to which they apply for evaluation by comprehensive review processes already in place. A subset of this pool with credentials placing them in the top 9% of students statewide, based on an index of their ACT or SAT test scores and GPA in UC-approved courses, or in the top 9% in their high school, will receive an additional guarantee of admission to a UC campus (though it may not be their preferred campus). Applicants still will be required to complete the full ‘a-g’ pattern of 15 courses by the time they graduate from high school. The proposal also eliminates the SAT subject tests as a requirement for admission; however, students can still submit Subject Test scores for consideration as part of their application, just as they do now with Advanced Placement scores.


The Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS) first recommended the admissions reform proposal to the Academic Council in August 2007 after four years of extensive study and analysis. The proposal went through two rounds of systemwide Senate review in 2007-08 before the Academic Assembly approved a final version in June 2008. The policy approved by The Regents differs only slightly from the one passed by the Assembly, which recommended a 2.8 unweighted minimum GPA.


“The message to students is to work hard, apply to UC, and you will be given a fair and comprehensive review at all the campuses to which you apply, where your accomplishments will be evaluated in the full context of the opportunities available to you,” said Croughan.


Former BOARS Chair Mark Rashid says UC’s current admissions eligibility policy places more emphasis on jumping through hoops than on academic achievement. Consequently, he says, “Several thousand ineligible students present higher indices of academic achievement than some of their UC-eligible peers. For example, failing to take the SAT subject test renders many students ineligible, yet we know that the SAT subject test does not add significantly to predictions of academic performance, and differentially impacts underrepresented students. The new policy removes these barriers and raises academic standards in a manner that is more consistent with a broad definition of merit.”


One of the most significant aspects of the new policy is the expansion of the Eligibility in the Local Context program from 4% to 9%. Chair Croughan says this change will increase geographic diversity by extending UC’s reach throughout California and increase fairness by expanding opportunity to excellent students who attend under-resourced schools. “By expanding the relevance of the local context for purposes of admission consideration, UC will be able to extend its reach across the state and evaluate student performance in the context of the opportunities available to them. This will help make our student body look more like California.”


Although it is difficult to predict application and admissions behavior with certainty, BOARS’ research projects that the new policy may have a positive impact on undergraduate ethnic and racial diversity.


President Yudof lent his full support to the proposal and worked with a team of Senate leaders over several months to brief state legislators, members of the Assembly Higher Education Committee, legislative caucuses, and newspaper editorial boards on the proposal and its impact. Senate leaders also have written op-ed pieces and reports responding to groups and individuals about the proposal. On February 4, Croughan, Rashid, former Senate Chair Michael Brown, and current BOARS Chair Sylvia Hurtado formally presented the proposal to The Regents’ Educational Policy Committee.


Chair Croughan says the passage of admissions reform is a testimony to the analytical and policy expertise of both the Senate and UCOP, and to the collaborative strength of shared governance. “Over the past six years, BOARS has conducted a thorough and detailed analysis of our admissions policy in collaboration with the Office of Student Affairs. None of this work could have moved forward without the dedication and passion of former BOARS chair Mark Rashid, current Chair Sylvia Hurtado, and former BOARS and Academic Senate Chair Michael Brown. One of the positive aspects of this process has been an improved working relationship among the Senate, the President, and The Regents, and a new respect for the work of BOARS,” she said. “It has been an extraordinary experience working with BOARS and the Office of Student Affairs over the past year. Sylvia (Hurtado), Mark (Rashid), and Michael (Brown) did an amazing job of representing the faculty throughout this process.” 


The policy will be implemented in November 2011, when the first students under the proposal apply for 2012 admission. Although this leaves time to educate and communicate with the public through various media, this work must begin now. The UC Office of Admissions has already sent notices to high schools, the Department of Education, and other key constituencies, and will implement a number of strategies in the coming months to clearly and effectively communicate the changes. An eligibility reform website includes FAQs about the new policy, and there is a plan to add capacity to the website that will allow students, counselors, and others to ask questions. 


UC also must communicate a clear message to students, parents, and counselors that very little is actually changing in terms of student preparation. Current high school students who are not affected by the new policy must continue to take the required subject tests, and students hoping to enter UC in 2012 only have to know one new thing – they do not have to take the SAT subject tests. All other requirements remain the same.


BOARS will conduct annual and five-year evaluations and report academic and fiscal impacts to the Academic Council and The Regents. Based on the results of these ongoing studies, BOARS will periodically consider recommending adjustments to the guarantee structure, said BOARS Chair Hurtado. In addition, the Admissions Processing Task Force, a joint administrative and faculty committee, is discussing possible enhancements to admissions application processing that will allow campuses to share reviews of freshman applications, with the goal of strengthening the application review process while saving time and money. More on this will be provided in a future issue of the Senate Source.


What is next for the Senate and admissions policy? BOARS Chair Sylvia Hurtado says Regent Eddie Island recently challenged the Senate to consider additional steps UC might take to increase access, affordability, and diversity. “We are pleased that Regent Island has invited us to submit additional ideas to make excellence at UC inclusive. We continue to study ways that UC can increase opportunities for the many talented students in the state.”


Link to the full Regents item