Students criticize new admission standards

By Gus Bode

Kourtney Gray believes SIUC is a University open to all, but sees the Faculty Senate’s admission standards change as limiting accessibility to the University.

“I don’t agree with it because, in my opinion, this has always been an institution that has helped and looked out for lower socio-economic students and non-traditional students,” said the outgoing coordinator of the Black Affairs Council.

The Faculty Senate voted April 13 to raise the minimum ACT composite score from 21 to 22 for automatic admission. If students do not have a 22 ACT, they would still be automatically admitted if in the top-25 percent of their graduating class. The Senate also created a denial category for students with a 17 ACT or lower or in the bottom 25 percent. The changes will go into effect by fall 2006.

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Nate Brown, the incoming vice president of Undergraduate Student Government, said the University is trying to become more selective, but it needs to rely on its strengths. Brown said he considers being able to provide an education to people who come from varying knowledge bases as one of the University’s strengths.

Kevin Winstead, incoming coordinator of BAC and a freshman in business marketing, said SIUC was built as a hands-on University and that is the only reason he came.

“To change that is to change the principles SIU is built on,” he said.

Neal Young, outgoing USG president, said putting in these new policies would change the makeup of the student body. Young said the criteria that is already in place is sufficient.

“We have standards that will effectively weed out those who can’t hack it,” he said. “We have programs that will get help to those people who need it. Changing it on this end is a little troublesome.”

The students who do not meet the minimum ACT requirement or class rank for automatic admission would be reviewed for admittance through the Center for Basic Skills. CBS is set up to help students ill-prepared for college by providing extra services to help them make the transition.

Young said by raising the automatic admission standards, there is going to be a significant number of students being admitted through CBS.

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“We are most worried about how this is going to affect not just the overall structure of the student body, but how this will affect the CBS-related programs,” he said. “As of yet, we have not seen any proposals to expand funding to the CBS program, which means there are still a limited number of slots.”

Last semester, 20 percent of freshmen were enrolled into the University through CBS. Gray is a product of CBS and will be graduating this May with a degree in social work.

“I’ve really felt the ACT is a culturally biased test,” Gray said.

Winstead said that many high schools, including his own, offered ACT preparation classes for only students in the honors programs, which gave them an unfair advantage. He said allowing students to be accepted based on their class rank is good, because at least it focuses on the individual.

“How are you going to have this one standard for me when it wasn’t that one standard when I was coming in?” he asked. “The ACT is like you are comparing me to every other student who comes in, even if they had classes to directly prepare them for the ACT.”

Gray came from a magnet school in Chicago that was very competitive. As a result, he did not have a high class rank, and he wondered if students from these schools would be rejected if they aren’t good test takers.

Young said the students who are now on the lower end of the spectrum are going to be forced out and the state shouldn’t be the body to decide who should or should not go to college. He said USG is concerned with the approach the administration is using to increase the standards.

The next fight for USG will be to make sure CBS is given the proper funding to operate with the increased number of students, Young said.

A faction of the Faculty Senate said students who do not meet the new admission standards should consider community college.

Jennifer Killham, a senior in university studies, transferred to SIUC from a community college. While a part of that college, she served on an advisory board that looked at many problems facing community colleges.

“Passing the burden to community colleges is not the answer, because community colleges are saying ‘we don’t want this responsibility either,'” she said. “The biggest benefit of a community college is cost, but it is not a wasteland for people who aren’t capable of competing at a four-year institution.”

Killham said one of the biggest problems with the resolution is that it makes the University more of an elitist institution.

“Higher education should be treated as a fundamental right,” she said. “This is one of the many forms of segregation, and they are pretending that learning is limited to the classroom.”

Young said that he worries most about the students currently at the end of the spectrum that would have been otherwise simply forced out, as well as funding for CBS.

“If they are going to increase standards, they have to increase funding to programs like CBS,” said Young. “They have to do it. It is absolutely the only way to make this change successful without seriously changing the makeup of the student body here.”

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