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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA should raise its admittance standards

    We’ve been hearing about the seemingly apocalyptic economic recession for many months now. Mostly, we’ve heard about the bad and the ugly, and admittedly, there’s not much good to embrace. However, the current economic climate actually presents a unique opportunity for the UA and state universities across the country.

    New York Times columnist Lisa W. Foderaro writes, “”At SUNY New Paltz, as at many other well-regarded public institutions this spring, admissions calculations carefully measured over many years are being set aside as an unraveling economy is making less expensive state colleges more appealing.””

    Simply put, high school students across the country are facing a reality check when it comes to college admissions. That fat sticker price of a private school education has become more unaffordable as families cling to their jobs and homes. More and more, these students are simply unable to finance a pricey private school education.

    But it’s not all bad news. The dour economic climate has caused a palpable spike in applications to state universities as more and more middle-class families seek to get more bang for their buck when it comes to higher education for Junior. All of a sudden, public colleges are in vogue, even in spite of the widespread budget cuts they are facing.

    So how can more applications possibly be a good thing for a public school like ours? Two words: smarter students.

    More applications translate into more qualified applicants and increased competition for a spot in the freshman class. Several key benefits should emerge as more and more top high school seniors choose our school over more expensive private institutions.

    For one, a more qualified entering class will stimulate achievement in the classroom. Never again we will overhear conversations about how difficult that psychology 101 exam was – you know, the one with 25 multiple-choice questions. Or how hard it is to write a five-page double-spaced paper in two weeks. Instead of spewing feeble and useless protests like these, students will actually strive to excel and realize their academic goals.

    In addition, these newly anointed UA overachievers will work wonders for our school’s dismal student retention statistics. Currently, nearly 1 in 5 UA freshman will not return as sophomores. Almost certainly, this number will fall as the entering class’s high school GPA and SAT scores rise. Not to generalize, but top-performing high school students tend to drop out of college in fewer numbers than, say, the kids who squeaked by with a 2.0 in high school.

    Opponents may say increased competition for a spot in the freshman class is a bad thing because it diminishes access to higher education for students who would be accepted barring this increase in applications. It’s true. More applications will undoubtedly mean more rejection letters.

    On the other hand, though, this surge enables the admissions committee to elevate the reputation of the UA. Foderaro writes that officials at the State University of New York at New Paltz view the growth of the applicant pool as “”a way to further refine its status and student body.”” Essentially, the school is becoming more selective.

    The UA could institute a similar dogma – one that further bumps up the intrinsic value of our degrees. After all, a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley – the nation’s top public university for 2009 according to U.S. News and World Report – is worth more than, let’s say, a bachelor’s degree from ASU.

    This inherent value stems from the school’s reputation, its student body, its standards and so forth. By refining the reputation of the UA, administrators would take tangible steps toward the “”world-class university”” slogan they’ve adopted.

    Another option in order to accommodate such a surge in applications is a move to increase the size of the freshman class (especially out-of-state students), which would increase precious tuition dollars that could help alleviate the cataclysmic budget cuts. More students would help defray the increase in tuition on a year-to-year basis as well, since more wallets will become part of the communal pool from which the UA extracts its pound of flesh.

    The recession has put forth a rare opportunity for the UA and other public universities. More and more, these are the schools that are in demand among excelling high schoolers. The UA should use this opportunity to achieve its aim of solidifying its reputation as “”Arizona’s World-Class University.””

    -ÿJustin Huggins is a senior majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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