Regents 010920

Louisiana Board of Regent Claudia Adley said Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020 that she still had some questions about a new admissions policy and asked to postpone the expected vote.

Louisiana’s top board overseeing higher education postponed Thursday consideration of new minimum admissions standards for the state’s 13 public four-year universities.

Some members of the Board of Regents said they had too many questions and asked to postpone the scheduled vote for another 30 days.

“I was surprised that they still had so many questions,” said LSU Board of Supervisors Chair Mary Werner after the Board of Regents adjourned.

She was “prepared to accept” the proposals that were drafted in large part as a reaction to LSU’s unilateral adoption of “holistic” standards that minimized the importance of standardized tests, relying more on essays and recommendations in choosing who could come to the state’s flagship. The new proposals included penalties for institutions that didn’t adhere to the Regent’s admissions criteria.

“I have questions in my mind that I have not been able to resolve,” said Regent Felix R. Weill, of Baton Rouge. “I want to be comfortable about what we are voting on.”

Regents wouldn’t articulate what their issues were with the proposal.

But Regent Randy Ewing, of Quitman, noted that the proposal allowed individual universities to petition the Regents for changes to the criteria but didn’t include much detail about the process. “I wish I had a better, clearer understanding of how this would work,” Ewing said.

Also, the proposal did not have a start date. Most colleges and universities require applications by Jan. 1 for the 2020 fall semester. LSU has a Feb. 1 deadline.

“If we need to dig more in the weeds, we’re going to dig more in the weeds,” said Regents Chair Marty Chabert, of Houma. “This is not only an LSU issue.”

He said Regents may invite the university leaders to come testify in public about their thoughts on the admission standards.

Last year LSU administrators didn’t seek permission from their own Board of Supervisors or anyone else before embarking a “holistic” admissions policy, despite the qualifications set by the Regents, including hard minimum scores for standardized tests like the ACT.

The change enraged some former Regents and some of LSU’s biggest donors, saying holistic admissions policy weakened the university. They argued that the minimum standards were established in the late 1980s – put in place as regulation in 2005 – to help convert LSU into a selective admissions flagship.

LSU had been open to all, enrolling just about everyone who applied but graduating very few relative to other colleges. The then LSU System President F. King Alexander, who spearheaded the change, countered that the nation’s leading universities were shifting to an admissions policy that relied more essays, grades, recommendations, resumes and other factors that judged the abilities of a prospective student.

The new proposal includes a hammer if, like LSU, too many applicants who haven’t met the minimum standards are enrolled. Regents staff said the enforcement part of the new rules wouldn’t have applied to the LSU situation that started the controversy.

LSU could take a $2 million hit over two years subtracted from its $114.9 million allocation of state funding for allowing too many students who didn’t meeting the Regents’ admissions criteria. The third year would have cost LSU an additional $1.2 million.

“The policy improvements proposed retain the Regents’ steadfast commitment to have students admitted where they can be most successful,” said Commissioner of Higher Education Kim Hunter Reed. “We undertook a thoughtful review of this issue and I am pleased with the collaborative process to date, but we want to ensure everyone is comfortable with the final policy we will present next month.”

Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.