New university admissions policy lessens importance of class rank

Heather Johnson

People applying to any of Iowa’s regent universities beginning in fall 2009 will have to meet new requirements in order to receive automatic admission.

According to a Board of Regents news release, the new automatic admission requirements were approved by the Board in December 2006, and it will first affect high school students currently heading into their junior year.

Under the new requirements, automatic admission will be determined by a mathematical formula, called the Regent Admission Index.

A score of 245 or higher will qualify a student for automatic admission.

The new plan will de-emphasize students’ class rankings and shift the focus to the students’ completion of college preparatory courses. Students’ cumulative grade point averages and ACT scores will also factor into the equation.

“When you put them together, they’re more predictive than any one of them,” said Phil Caffrey, associate director of admissions, of the factors used in the index.

Under the current system, a student’s class ranking may suffer if the student attempts a more challenging course load.

“There is not a lot of incentive for [high school students] to stretch themselves academically,” Caffrey said of the current standards.

Conversely, a student could take few challenging courses or fewer courses in high school and still qualify for automatic admission because he or she outranks students adopting a more challenging schedule.

Caffrey said the new requirements will provide incentive for students to challenge themselves academically. He also said the index will, hopefully, better predict a student’s chances for success.

“We want students to have a good, smooth transition from high school,” said Diana Gonzalez, policy and operations officer of the Board of Regents.

Caffrey said the index will better assess students from highly competitive high schools, where a student could perform well and still not rank in the top half of the class and will also correct anomalies within small schools.

Caffrey said one drawback to the new Regent Admission Index is the complexity of having to explain the mathematical formula to the public.

Caffrey and Gonzalez said the reaction to the new system from high school teachers and counselors has been positive.

“Overall, we’ve gotten a lot of support,” Gonzalez said.

Clarifying, she said these requirements are specifically for automatic admission.

“We want everybody to know that individual review is still going to be possible.”