Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Southern University Chooses To Keep Its Admissions Gate Wide

Southern University drops higher admission standards

A+ (97-100) = 4.0
A (93-96) = 4.0
A- (90-92) = 3.7

B+ (87-89) = 3.3
B (83-86) = 3.0
B- (80-82) = 2.7

C+ (77-79) = 2.3
C (73-76) = 2.0
C- (70-72) = 1.7

D+ (67-69) = 1.3
D (65-66) = 1.0
E/F (below 65) = 0.0

Southern University's challenge in having to receive students in the condition that they stand while knocking on the university door was created long before the doorbell rang. The fear that by raising the bar for admissions from a "lower C" to an "upper C" their finances would suffer a tremendous blow is a matter of fiscal reality. People will tend to focus on the loss of integrity that a degree from Southern University will suffer. In truth we need to focus on what this says about the credibility of the "feeder schools" that failed to prepare these students.

Intrinsic upon these standards is the need for remedial courses in the first year including a heavy dose of counseling to insure that the students adopt more effective study habits.

While enforcement of higher standards is more of an issue at schools with competitive admissions Southern University (and other schools) should form a partnership with the feeder schools from which the bulk of their students are received from. They need to collaborate on a more effective pedagogical expression so that the product of these institutions will be more attuned to the heightened requirements.

Southern University is no longer planning to toughen its student admission requirements this year, Southern System President Ronald Mason Jr. said Tuesday.

Partly citing “financial reasons,” Mason touched on the issue after a discussion about a new Baton Rouge Area Chamber research paper, titled “Toward a Renaissance at Southern University A&M College.”

The report released Tuesday suggested toughening Southern’s GPA and ACT entrance standards among other recommendations.

Last year, Southern had planned to increase the minimum GPA standard from a 2.0 to a 2.5 — on a 4.0 scale — and to phase in the minimum ACT test score from a 20 to a 22 by 2012. But after facing opposition from the Faculty Senate and others, the decision was made to delay implementation until 2011.

Now, Mason, who became president last summer, said the toughened standards are being indefinitely delayed.

Mason said the focus is on doing a better job of retaining and graduating students under the current admission standards, at least until the state mandates stricter entrance requirements.

Tougher standards typically cause a temporary dip in student enrollment, which is why Mason cited financial concerns from the potential loss of tuition dollars at a time of state budget cuts to colleges and Southern’s problems with already declining student enrollment levels.

Southern’s enrollment has dropped from nearly 9,500 students in 2000 to about 7,300 this past fall.

“We ought to maintain as much flexibility as we can,” Mason said.

There also is no guarantee that tougher ACT standards equate to better graduation rates, Mason said.

As for the BRAC report, other recommendations include:

n Developing a better student tracking system to improve retention, including following students who drop out with a goal toward re-enrolling them.

n Attracting more dollars through federal grants and an aggressive private fundraising campaign to help offset state budget cuts.

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