U2000 goals carry tighter admissions criteria

Freshmen who enter the University this week have passed some of the most stringent admissions standards in the school’s recent history.
Attracting freshmen from the top of their high school classes is one of the goals of University 2000, University President Nils Hasselmo’s comprehensive plan for improving the University. Administrators say they are well on their way to meeting the plan’s goals for freshman admissions.
“The best-prepared class that we have ever had will be arriving on campus, and it is the class of 2000,” Hasselmo said
The U2000 plan also sets goals for increasing the number of students of color at the University and increasing the percentage of students who graduate in fives years.
Exact figures about the size and makeup of the incoming class are not yet available, said Wayne Sigler, director of the Office of Admissions. But estimates indicate that this year’s incoming class is smaller than last year’s.
John Kellog, from the Office of Planning and Analysis estimated that there are about 4,100 freshmen starting classes on the Twin Cities campus, compared with 4,365 freshmen last year.
Sigler said the admissions office has three goals for recruiting freshmen: The class should be well-prepared, it must represent diverse student backgrounds, and it should contain a targeted number of students.
“It’s a challenge to hit all three (goals) every year,” Sigler said. “We’re probably more likely to hit two out of three each year and then by the year 2000, we’ll have stability over all three areas.”
Because admissions officials focused on raising the academic qualifications of incoming freshmen this year, fewer students were offered admission, Sigler said.
“As we move through the year 2000, we needed to make academic progress and we couldn’t bring in the head count we did last year,” Sigler said.
Tightening admissions, a process that has been going on for nearly a decade, has raised criticism from those who fear it will exclude people of color and people with disabilities.
Camara Refined Earth, chairwoman for the Africana Student Cultural Center, said people were concerned about tightening admissions.
“It’s a two-sided coin,” Refined Earth said. “On one side, I want people to have access to education, but on the other, I don’t want to imply that you have to keep the standards low for students of color to be able to get into the institution.”
Students of color and others from non-European cultures are put at a disadvantage, Refined Earth said, because they face a hostile educational system and are judged by standards that are not their own.
“The standards are not the same standards I would use to judge someone coming from my culture,” she said.
Sigler said admission is being tightened so that students would have a better chance of succeeding at the University.
“We’re not doing it to become elitist or exclusive,” he said. “We’re doing it to enhance the preparedness of the class so they have increased chances of retention and graduation.”
Some students who were not admitted to the colleges they applied to were considered for General College, which has less stringent admission standards and provides additional support services to students.
“We feel like there’s good alternatives both here at the University and in the metro area, so we don’t feel we’re denying access to higher education,” Sigler said.
Sigler said the University did not alter its basic standards. Students are still admitted automatically if they meet high school course requirements, and have high class rank and test scores.
Admissions workers review applications of students who did not meet those criteria and decide whom to admit on a case-by-case basis. This year, the office admitted fewer students who didn’t meet the basic criteria.
Last year, the mean high school rank for incoming freshmen on the Twin Cities campus was 73.8 percent; the U2000 goal was 74 percent. Those figures include General College, which admits students who don’t meet the admissions standards for other colleges. By the year 2000, the University hopes that percentage will increase to 78 percent.