Life is complicated, and there are certainly some students who deserve flexibility on admission to LSU. They may have illness, injury or other reasonable reasons why they are not quite up to the official admissions standard.
Roy O. Martin, an LSU alum who is now chairman of the state Board of Regents, said it is also widely known in some circles that the people who most often benefit from LSU’s waiver program are athletes and those who come from families with influence. “Other students don’t,” Martin said flatly.
This is hardly an issue at LSU alone. The Dallas Morning News earlier this year reported that influential Texans had helped students skirt admissions requirements at the University of Texas at Austin. Based on the Morning News’ review of requests for such waivers, legislators, university leaders and wealthy alumni were among those who made pleas on behalf of underqualified students.
After a public records request, The Advocate forced LSU to release heavily edited documents about waivers. For this summer and fall, at least 65 have been granted — not many out of thousands of incoming freshmen.
Because of the heavy editing by LSU officials, it’s not clear whether students with ties to influential people have been admitted to LSU under the program.
What is clear is that LSU ought to own up to what categories of students are getting the waivers, although nine are apparently athletes. An analysis of the waivers need not invade any individual student’s privacy.
But if these waivers are rare at LSU, the notion of getting around admissions requirements is disturbingly common.
The board headed by Martin, prodded by the Legislature, has made it easier for students to get into a few state colleges by bending the rules on admissions requirements. The review of minimum standards for the state’s historically black colleges was begun because of enrollment issues.
During Gov. Bobby Jindal’s two terms in office, direct state aid to colleges has been slashed. Schools are much more dependent on tuition dollars than they used to be.
Even LSU has a “Tiger Bridge” program that allows students to live on campus while taking classes through Baton Rouge Community College. Other schools have similar programs — remedial classes, by another name.
This is not a case of a few exceptions for genuinely deserving students. It is a deliberate policy of raising enrollment, and thus tuition dollars, by bringing in students who don’t meet the requirements for college work. That’s good for the institutions, but is it good for student in over his head academically?
Some, perhaps even many, of those not meeting requirements go on to succeed in college. We hope so. For those working to meet the admissions standards without help, as Martin said, waivers are a problematic policy.