LSU doesn’t expect penalty for violating admission standards
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana State University’s president said Monday he doesn’t believe the state’s top higher education board can penalize his school for violating Louisiana’s college admissions policy in its enrollment of students who didn’t meet minimum criteria.
F. King Alexander wants the Board of Regents to change existing admissions standards put into use 13 years ago, to give schools more flexibility. But he also claimed the Regents lack the authority to punish LSU for granting more exceptions than are allowed under the current policy they started requiring for the state’s public four-year universities in 2005.
“We need to take a closer look at what we call an exception,” Alexander said. “What do those numbers actually mean?”
LSU reworked its admissions approach for first-time students entering this fall, lessening reliance on standardized test scores and grade point averages. The changes, which weren’t initially announced, have drawn criticism as diminishing standards and prompted a Regents audit of university admissions across the state to determine if schools are obeying the rules.
Alexander described the statewide college admissions criteria as a “recommendation from the Regents,” rather than a requirement that must be followed.
Louisiana Commissioner of Higher Education Kim Hunter Reed disagreed, citing the board’s constitutional authority and saying: “There is no question in my mind about that issue. I don’t believe that Regents policy compliance is optional.”
But Reed also said state college leaders shouldn’t focus on questions of authority as much as they should be deciding whether Louisiana has the right policies in place to help broaden access to higher education and ensure people get the skills they need for employment.
“We have to keep our eye on the bigger conversation,” she said.
The Regents divvy up most of the state financing for public college campuses through its funding formula, but Reed said the board has never penalized schools for non-compliance with the admissions criteria.
She said LSU isn’t the only school that has granted more exceptions to the admissions criteria, based on historic, self-reported and unaudited data submitted by campuses. This, however, is the first audit the board has required for the numbers.
Until this year, LSU required potential incoming freshmen to have a 3.0 high school GPA and a 22 on the ACT college entrance exam to be considered for admission, with only limited exceptions — a stricter standard than required by Regents.
Under the Regents’ requirements, LSU’s incoming freshmen must have a 3.0 high school GPA or a 25 ACT score, with up to 4 percent of the enrolling class allowed exceptions. Other Louisiana colleges have lower admissions standards and larger percentages of exceptions allowed.
Alexander acknowledged LSU breached the Regents’ limit of exceptions in its student admissions this fall, but he told the Baton Rouge Press Club that the changed approach mirrors admissions policies at 80 percent of the nation’s flagship universities.
He said about 295 out of the 5,800 entering freshmen on LSU’s main campus didn’t meet the minimum standards generally required of first-time students. He pointed to a high school valedictorian who was homeless, a high-performing out-of-state student who didn’t meet the state’s core curriculum requirements, rural students who only get one opportunity to take the ACT college entrance exam and students whose high school years were disrupted during the 2016 floods as those who deserved consideration outside of the minimum criteria.
“We’re taking a closer look at students who deserve a closer look,” he said.
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