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The south entrance to LSU's campus on Dalrymple Drive, Tuesday, March 5, 2019, in Baton Rouge.

In a slap at LSU, a report presented Wednesday to the Louisiana Board of Regents spells out why LSU and other schools are supposed to limit the number of students admitted even though they failed to meet academic standards.

"For the past two decades the Board of Regents has conducted studies on performance with similar findings: there is a direct relationship between student preparation and student performance," the review says.

Students who meet the academic criteria before admission outperformed those who did not "based on every performance measure examined," according to the study, which was done by the staff of the regents.

The report is the latest volley in a months-long dispute between the board and others and LSU President F. King Alexander over how many students should be allowed to enter LSU if they failed to meet grade point, ACT or other standards.

Last fall LSU admitted nearly double the number of allowed students who failed to meet the benchmarks under what it calls a holistic admissions policy.

A total of 435 students were accepted at the school as "exceptions" to the requirements, or 7.5 percent of the fall, 2018 first-time freshman class.

Under the rules of the regents, LSU was not supposed to allow more than 4 percent of the freshmen class to gain admission without meeting the academic criteria.

Those figures first surfaced last October.

"LSU exceeded the admissions policy in its allowance for exceptions," the report says.

Alexander has defended LSU's practice as a way to boost diversity, admit more students from out of state, who pay much higher fees and still produce a top-flight class.

The president often notes that last year's entering class averaged 26 on the ACT -- which measures college readiness -- and earned a 3.5 GPA in high school.

The 435 students LSU admitted last year after they failed to meet school standards averaged 21.3 on the ACT and 2.9 on their GPA's.

LSU freshmen are supposed to to have a minimum GPA of 3.0 or at least a 25 on the ACT.

A perfect score on the ACT is 36.

The school reiterated its stance after the report came out.

"LSU's entering class of Fall 2018 was admitted using comprehensive admissions, and is the largest and most diverse freshman class in LSU's history," Kristine Calongne Sanders, assistant vice president for communications, said in a statement.

Sanders said the class "has matched or exceeded previous freshman classes in GPA, persistence from fall to spring semesters, number of credits earned and maintaining their TOPS awards."

TOPS stands for Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, which helps finance tuition for students who meet the academic criteria.

The report outlined on Wednesday noted that regents previously rejected requests from schools to be allowed to increase the number of students admitted without meeting admission rules.

It did so after a staff study said students who started school through the traditional process consistently outperformed those allowed in by exception in both grade point averages and retention rates.

The regents took no action on the report.

Commissioner of Higher Education Kim Hunter Reed told the group the study, as well as what the state should do about schools that violate the cap for exceptions, will be discussed in August.

"We will look at the policy itself," Reed said.

It is the first such review since 2006.

The cap on admitting students who failed to meet academic benchmarks stemmed from minimum university standards that took effect in 2005.

The report said schools previously had open admission policies because community college options in Louisiana were limited.

That changed in 1997 when voters approved a constitutional amendment that set up the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, which has drawn students that otherwise might have attended, and struggled, at LSU or other four-year schools.

Richard Lipsey, who lives in Baton Rouge and is former chairman of the regents, has led the criticism of LSU's admission policies, and Alexander in particular.

Lipsey on Wednesday said LSU's admissions policy is one of several instances where Alexander acted without first winning approval from the LSU Board of Supervisors.


Email Will Sentell @wsentell@theadvocate.com.