NORMAN — Proposed changes to the University of Oklahoma's admissions policy could allow the university to admit certain students who might have been rejected under the current system.
OU officials hope to see the university adopt a holistic admissions system. Under that system, the university would consider a range of criteria officials say would give them a better idea of applicants' chances for success.
The OU Board of Regents approved the new approach at a meeting last week. The proposal will go before the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education for consideration later this month. If approved, it would take effect in fall 2013.
Under the university's current policy, applicants are given automatic admission if they meet requirements in high school GPA and class rank, and score at least a 24 on the ACT or a 1,090 on the SAT. Students who don't meet those requirements may be offered a place on the university's wait list.
During the meeting, OU President David Boren said that policy leaves out applicants who could be successful while admitting others who ultimately wash out.
Work ethic, potential
For example, if an applicant scores well on the ACT but has a poor work ethic, that student wouldn't be likely to succeed in college, Boren said.
Meanwhile, another student who barely missed the requirements could have academic potential, but still would be rejected under the current system.
Under the new policy, the university would still consider college entrance exam scores, but only as a part of a larger package of criteria. If an applicant fails to meet entrance exam requirements, Boren said, he or she could still make up ground in other areas.
“It won't be a mechanical requirement,” he said. “You shouldn't feel like you shouldn't even apply to OU.”
Matt Hamilton, OU's registrar and vice president for enrollment and student financial services, said the plan is part of an effort to make sure the university recruits the students who are most likely to graduate.
OU has posted strong graduation numbers in recent years. Earlier this year, the university announced the six-year graduation rate for the 2005 freshman class was 67.8 percent — the highest in state history for a public university. The graduation rate has increased more than 20 percent since 1990.
The proposed admissions policy came as a result of an analysis OU officials conducted of freshman groups, Hamilton said. In that analysis, university officials noticed that students who barely qualified for automatic admission tended to drop out of school at a higher rate than those who didn't qualify for automatic admission, but were admitted anyway.
The difference, Hamilton said, is how the university treated the two groups of students.
When OU accepted students who didn't qualify for automatic admission, part of the admissions agreement required those students to participate in targeted services, such as extra advising.
But when students barely qualified for automatic admission — meaning they performed only slightly better than those who didn't qualify — the university didn't offer them a similar agreement.
OU versus Texas
Under the new plan, admissions criteria would include high school course rigor and applicants' responses on essay questions. Unlike the embattled holistic admissions model used by Texas universities, Hamilton said, OU's admissions system wouldn't consider applicants' race and ethnic background.
The policy of using race as a factor in university admissions has been called into question in recent weeks when the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear the case of Fisher v. Texas. In that case, Abigail Fisher, a white college student, brought suit against the state of Texas, saying she was unfairly denied admission to the University of Texas because the school considers race
Even if the new policy is approved, the university will continue to offer automatic admittance to Oklahoma students who qualify under the current policy, Hamilton said.
But, he said, the new system could allow OU to tap into a pool of students it isn't currently able to reach.
“We want them at OU,” he said. “We believe they can be successful.”