Aug 232007
 
Authors: Aaron Hedge

Some high school students entering a four-year public college next year will bypass stringent admission requirements set to go into effect in 2008.

CSU and other Colorado institutions will now be allowed to admit students who would not have otherwise been admitted after higher education commissioners back-stepped on course requirements that could have kept some high-performing students from going to college.

About 17 percent of high school seniors won’t meet the 2008 requirements, CSU Vice Provost Alan Lamborn said.

“Bottom line is that the courses in the HEAR program are good for college-bound students,” Lamborn said. “But risks exist for students in limited school systems.”

Students who surpass the school’s base index requirement by 10 points will be exempt from some of the requirements set by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education – four years of English; three years of higher math, social science and science; and two electives.

At CSU, these students will need to reach an index score of 111, which reflects a combination of grade point average, ACT or SAT score and sometimes class rank.

The original mandates, passed in 2003, excluded students who hadn’t taken the courses, despite a high index score – a problem for rural or underserved schools that don’t have funding to offer the courses.

“If some students are late bloomers and decide they want to go straight to a four-year school, they don’t know what they’re in for,” said Brad Joens, principal of Platte Valley High School (PVHS), in Kersey.

The decision to offer exemptions for some high school students comes in the wake of controversy surrounding the new requirements for 2008 and 2010. The second phase of requirements adds an extra math credit and a foreign language credit.

This summer, university officials and high school administrators – aware that some students could fall through the cracks – urged CCHE to postpone the 2010 requirements to create a buffer for schools that couldn’t offer required courses.

In a 6-3 vote, the commission chose not to delay the requirements – a decision Lamborn said was premature.

“Students, parents and counselors aren’t dumb. If a decision relies on GPA, why take hard courses?” Lamborn said. “This set of requirements is a good idea, but implementing them in the two-year transition is dangerous.”

The commission defended its decision to not postpone the 2010 requirements, saying they didn’t want to “back off the challenge.”

Despite offering exemptions on the 2008 mandates, CCHE has shown no intention of backing off the 2010 admissions standards, said Raymond Baker, chairman of CCHE.

While CSU and other selective schools are allowed to admit some students who do not meet admissions standards, Lamborn said CSU only admitted about 11 percent of its 14 percent allotment in recent years.

That cushion, he said, could be all but eliminate when the second set of requirement go into effect.

The remaining percentage from selective schools are pooled and reallocated to open-enrollment institutions, like Metro State in Denver, which hit the window ceiling of 20 percent.

“I think what (CCHE is) trying to do is a good thing,” said Michael Kruger, principal of Buena Vista High School (BVHS). “But the realities are that rural schools are going to suffer.”

Sixty percent of high school students who graduated from BVHS last year were accepted to four-year institutions, Kruger said.

But with the new requirements, small schools like BVHS will have trouble coming up with the resources to meet the requirements.

“We’re looking for creative ways to do this, like offering online classes,” Kruger said.

Forty percent of in-state college students don’t currently meet the 2010 requirements, Lamborn said.

“2010 is still looming out there and it could be the big one in terms of challenges,” he said.

Some CSU freshman would have had no problem if the requirements were implemented in 2007.

“I probably met those requirements before senior year,” said Ben Schreiber, an art major from Evergreen.

But others would have had a harder time.

“I think I would have barely met the requirements just because of the social sciences,” said Jazmine Parker, an open option business major from Centennial. “I almost didn’t meet that.”

Staff writer Aaron Hedge can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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