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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA’s SAT standard drops

    A poor score on the SAT can eliminate many college options, but not the UA.

    Analysis shows the average SAT scores of all UA applicants in the past four years have dropped about 20 points with non-resident applicants’ scores decreased by more than 40 points, according to documents obtained from the UA Admissions Office via a public records request.

    Earlier this year, President Robert Shelton touted the university’s successes in enrolling the largest, most diverse class in its history. Despite the large size and diversity, it appears the latest pack of Wildcats are not on par academically with previous classes.

    In addition to lower SAT scores, the newest class’ high school grade point average was the lowest in the past four years, according to UA Admissions.

    “”Arizona has the lower GPA because we are a state with abysmal funding of higher education,”” said Paul Kohn, vice provost for Enrollment Management and Dean of Admissions. “”If you were to compare us with California, or some other state where the state actually makes investments in financial aid as well as higher (education) overall – at a rate that’s much higher than Arizona – you’ll find that those schools can be more selective.””

    According to a comparison by College Board, California schools are more selective. UCLA, for example, accepts 24 percent of applicants, whereas the UA admits about 80 percent.

    But Kohn said the merit of UA students is determined by more than test scores. “”One of the things that we pride ourselves on that distinguishes ourselves from our Pac-10 peers, but also many other schools, is that we do a comprehensive review,”” Kohn said. “”We look at everything. We calculate cumulative GPA and academic GPA … we look at your test scores, but we also look at your essays, and what kind of high school you went to.””

    “”There is no single cutoff for GPA or for test scores,”” he added. “”Somebody could write in their essay about certain challenges they encountered that would explain why they didn’t do so well, and that would help substantiate a good cause for giving them a chance to try the University of Arizona.””

    More non-resident students are being given that chance. The university admitted 40 percent more out-of-state students this year than it did four years ago. Comparatively, the number of Arizonans admitted this year was only 6 percent more than in 2004.

    The rise in student population can be attributed to a mandate established by the Arizona Board of Regents, which requires the state’s public universities to continue to increase their populations, lest they receive a cut in funding.

    Faced with potentially fewer faculty members, the merging and restructuring of departments as result of a budgetary shake-up and the still unresolved UA Transformation Plan, the possibility of less state funding is not an idea the UA is ready to consider.

    Last year, when the UA’s three-year average of new student enrollment did not meet the growth expectations set forth by the regents, it was hit hard, receiving a meager portion of state dollars – $1.3 million. Arizona State University received the lion’s share, a sum of $17.9 million.

    What is unclear is why the university is accepting more non-resident students. The initial conclusion might be that those students pay greater tuition, but Kohn says otherwise, stating that the increased growth is only due to board mandates.

    “”Increasing the numbers (of new students) is not going to remedy any budget problem,”” Kohn said. “”It is intended that we will grow in a rational fashion and that we aren’t punished for our lack of growth, so that we may continue in our commitment to what Arizona needs, which is more residents with bachelor’s degrees.””

    Kasey Urquidez, UA director of recruitment, said there is not any particular effort to gain more non-resident students, stating that the UA typically admits about 30 percent non-residents and 70 percent residents.

    “”It seems more out-of-staters are taking us up on our offer,”” Urquidez said.

    The UA typically draws its largest numbers from California, Illinois, Texas and a number of East Coast states like New York and New Jersey. The university has had recruitment offices in many of those regions, including two in California. Members of Urquidez’s team also visit high schools, meet with guidance counselors and attend college fairs to gain the attention of prospective students.

    “”We do a lot of market research, finding out where our students are coming from, where students are most likely to go to college,”” Urquidez said. “”We look at all these things and then make our decisions of where we will make our visits and target our time.””

    Urquidez attributes UA’s popularity to the ease of applying. Much of the university’s business with applicants is done online, something that sets it apart from other public universities, Urquidez said.

    But with more students enrolling, the university’s systems will be taxed greatly, especially with the budgetary problems, Kohn said.

    “”We will have to be innovative,”” Kohn said, stating that the UA wishes to retain full-time faculty and not have to rely on adjunct professors. “”If we continue on that model, we have teachers that are going to be challenged to teach students with greater efficiency. Those instructors are going to have to be clever with how they deliver their courses.””

    “”It’s certainly a goal of the university that we respond to a short-term economic downturn in a way that does not compromise the long-term quality of education,”” said Johnny Cruz, a spokesman for the UA, reflecting on the school’s budget cuts and transformation plan. “”Efforts have been made to ensure course availability to focus on making cuts that are outside of classroom instruction. We want to ensure that the priorities willbe improving the educational experience of students.””

    “”We are going to see the emergence this fall of some hybrid courses that mix in classroom seat time with virtual seat time, and that will help us stay more productive, or may make us more productive than we have been in the past,”” Kohn said, giving an example of innovations taking place. “”I am hopeful the UA will continue to improve no matter the challenges we face.””

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