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Different Results, Same Policy?

April 5, 2005

A year and a half ago, the then-chairman of the University of California's Board of Regents released a review that showed that the university's most selective campuses were rejecting many applicants with SAT scores above 1500 while admitting hundreds with scores below 1000. 

The implication of the report, in the eyes of the regent who prepared it, John J. Moores, was that the admissions procedure the university adopted in the wake of the dismantling of affirmative action in the state -- a holistic rather than numbers-driven approach known as "comprehensive review" -- was focusing too much on subjective factors like experiences with diversity rather than on academic achievement. Some critics suggested that the California system was using the new system as a workaround to continue to keep its minority enrollments up.

Monday, the Los Angeles Times published an analysis of the university system's entering class in 2004 that shows that its campuses admitted significantly fewer students with SAT scores under 1000 than it had the year before.

Over all, according to the Times, the campuses admitted 2,200 (or more than 25 percent) fewer students in 2004 than they did in 2003, and only 51 percent of applicants with SAT scores of 1000 or below were offered a place by at least one UC campus, compared to 63 percent the year before.

Moores could not be reached for comment on Monday. But the Times reported that he and others who applauded his report in 2003 were pleased by the reduction in the numbers of low SAT students who gained admission, and that some viewed it as a sign that the university had responded to the criticism.

But while university officials did not dispute the numbers in the Times report, they said they had done nothing differently to produce them. "If there was a change in the policy, we would say so," said Ravi Poorsina, a UC spokeswoman. "There just was not a policy change."

Poorsina attributed the reduction to several other possible factors. She noted that because of state budget cuts, the university had admitted fewer students across the board in 2004, by nearly 7 percent.

So it's logical, she said, that there would be a reduction in most categories of admitted students, including those with SAT scores under 1000. A decline in applications may also have played a role, Poorsina noted. She also said she believed that applicants were coming in better prepared each year.

Poorsina added that it was dangerous to draw overarching conclusions about how the university admitted students based on one very narrow outcome. "I understand the desire to draw conclusions from the end result, but when you're looking at a process that's so complicated and so comprehensive, it can be misleading," she said.

"SAT scores are not necessarily what's going to make or break admission" to UC, she said. "They really are a small part of the large picture."

 

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