One of the worst policy decisions of the past few years: the state Board of Regents watering down admissions requirements in state universities.

The regents and the governor should reconsider an ill-judged initiative allowing colleges to admit students who require a remedial course.

“The goal is to get more graduates,” said Regents Chairman Roy Martin, of Alexandria.

Wrong. The goal of this policy is to get more paying bodies on campuses, whether the paying bodies have the qualifications, much less the likelihood, of getting a degree or not.

Currently, a student who scores on the ACT admissions test 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.

That last admissions benefit for historically black colleges is coming from the Legislature, where racial politics often get in the way of good policy.

Those campuses, particularly Southern’s main campus, have almost buckled under the strain of lower enrollments and deep cuts in state aid to colleges under Gov. Bobby Jindal over the past seven years.

Now, it is the Jindal appointees on the Board of Regents who are watering down admission requirements to bring in more paying customers.

This is a two-year experiment, the regents say. We urge them to think again.

All of us want to believe in the kid who shows up at the college door needing just one algebra course and that sheer determination and a reawakened commitment to learning carries that young man or woman to graduation four years hence.

This is a nice mythology, but it is belied by the Board of Regents’ own data and experience across the nation — including Louisiana’s y’all-come admissions policies of years ago.

What is really going to happen is that students who aren’t prepared for college are going to be admitted and pay tuition and fees, in many cases racking up debt for themselves and their families, so college administrators can boost their enrollment numbers and thus their budgets. Today’s standards for admission are not that high, but the enrollment crunch at campuses is threatening the finances of institutions.

It is a perfect case of putting the interests of the adults in management ahead of the students in the classroom.

There is no benefit for Louisiana or for a student to stumble in college because he or she can’t make the grades. Debt and no degree is a likely outcome of the Regents policy; that might be in the interest of the colleges’ balance sheet, but it can be a crippling event in a young life.

In 1975, the first master plan for higher education was developed under the new Louisiana Constitution.

Forty years later, the progress in higher education is being undermined by short-sighted budget decisions and by retreat from the common-sense observation that a student in a college setting has to be prepared to do college work.

“We are in fact lowering our admissions standards,” said board member Robert Levy, of Dubach.

He is exactly right.