After three meetings and hours of debate, the state Board of Regents on Wednesday agreed to test new admissions standards for some of Louisiana’s universities.
The new policy isn’t as far-reaching as some had been aiming for, but supporters say it could help more students go to college.
“The goal is to get more graduates,” said Regents chairman Roy Martin, of Alexandria.
Under the new policy, four-year regional institutions will be able to admit students who require a developmental, or remedial, course. Currently, a student who scores on the ACT below an 18 in English or a 19 in math can’t enroll at the state’s public universities without a waiver because he or she would have to take a remedial course at a two-year college. The standards are a minimum, so individually, colleges could opt out of the new provision.
Under the new policy, which is being tested for two years, remedial courses will still be offered on community college campuses — except for students of the state’s historically black colleges, Southern University, Southern University New Orleans and Grambling State University.
The HBCUs will be able to offer remedial courses on their own campuses.
About 650 students who would not otherwise be admitted will be able to enroll at Southern University in the fall under the new admissions standards, according to Southern University Alumni Federation President Preston Castille.
“It’s going to have an impact on our enrollment this fall semester,” he said.
Castille said HBCUs in Louisiana border states Mississippi and Texas have lower minimum admissions requirements. Without a change here, students end up going to Jackson State or Texas Southern, he said.
“They will go somewhere else outside of Louisiana and never come back,” Castille said.
The students will still have to have passed the required core high school courses and meet all of the other admissions standards, including minimum grade-point averages and minimum composite ACT scores.
But as they have in past meetings that ended in impasse on the issue, some board members expressed concern again Wednesday over projecting an image of lowering the state’s standards. The remediation policy was implemented to steer students to the community college system to prepare them for four-year schools.
“We are in fact lowering our admissions standards,” said board member Robert Levy, of Dubach.
The state higher education board sets minimum admissions standards, but schools could individually adopt higher standards on their own.
The new policy would not apply to universities that are deemed statewide or flagship, so it doesn’t change anything for LSU.
After the two-year mark, the Board of Regents is expected to review the effects and determine whether the policy should be permanent.
Several board members said they wondered if it would have any impact.
“How many are we really talking about being affected by this one way or the other?” said board member Joe Wiley, of Baton Rouge, who eventually voted for the proposal. “I don’t know there’s been any demonstration really why we are doing this.”
The universities had pushed for further flexibility in their admissions guidelines. Wednesday’s passage signaled a compromise in an ongoing debate over the state’s goals for its four-year schools.
Bill Fenstermaker, who pushed for the two-year sunset, said he worried that the state is sliding in its push for stiffer standards.
“It took 10 years to fight to get the standards we have,” said Fenstermaker, of Lafayette.
Joel Dupre, of New Orleans, said he worried that the change could ultimately have an impact on college outcomes at schools that already struggle to meet benchmarks the state put in place under the GRAD Act.
“By lowering these standards, admitting these challenge students, they are going to hurt their student success,” he said.
Martin said he sees the change as potentially encouraging students who otherwise might not go to college to enroll.
“Unfortunately, there is a stigma,” he said of community colleges.