Page One

UC’s admissions policy wins support

By David Scharfenberg Daily Planet Staff
Tuesday November 12, 2002

Despite critics’ fears, the University of California’s “comprehensive review” admissions policy has not lowered academic standards or skirted a ban on the consideration of race in admissions, according to a new study. 

Comprehensive review, used in all UC admissions for the first time this year, weighs intangibles like achievement in the face of adversity and community leadership, in addition to traditional academic measures like grades and test scores. 

Advocates argue that the process, used by many competitive schools around the country, allows for a full view of each applicant. But critics say the new system undercuts UC’s high academic standards and serves as a way around Proposition 209, passed by California voters in 1996, which forbids preferential treatment based on race. 

A study released last week by the Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS), a key faculty committee, found only a small decline in the academic qualifications of this year’s freshman class and a minor increase in the number of “underrepresented minorities” - African-Americans, Latinos and Native Americans – accepted. 

Prior to this year, the nine-campus University of California system accepted 50 to 75 percent of its students on academic factors alone, and the rest under comprehensive review. 

According to the new study, the mean grade-point average dropped only 0.05 points this year and SAT scores went down only slightly system-wide. At UC Berkeley in particular, the mean GPA dropped 0.03 points and SAT scores fell five points, from 1,337 to 1,332. 

Meanwhile admissions of underrepresented minorities increased slightly on some campuses, with the largest gains coming at UCLA and UC San Diego, and dropped at UC Davis and UC Irvine. UC Berkeley saw a small increase, from 16.3 to 16.5 percent of the population. 

But many of the critics are still unsatisfied. Bret Manley, president of UC Berkeley College Republicans, said comprehensive review provides a way around Proposition 209 and encourages applicants to embellish any hardships they may have faced prior to college. 


“People are compelled to exaggerate on their applications,” he said. 

The BOARS report, however, cited a pilot program at UC San Diego that required 437 applicants to verify self-reported family income, honors and achievements, academic enrichment programs and community service. Only one student, according to the study, could not provide documentation. 

The UC San Diego verification program did not focus on applicants’ personal statements, which would include a discussion of any hardship. But all of the applicants in a small system-wide study spearheaded by the UC president’s office were able to provide documentation supporting their statements, according to the study. 

All UC campuses are scheduled to launch a verification program beginning with the fall 2003 admissions cycle. 

The BOARS report also sought to downplay any concerns that admissions offices are placing undue weight on non-academic factors like hardship. 

“In reviewing campus policies, implementation plans and admissions outcomes, BOARS found no evidence to indicate that the role of hardship had increased substantially, nor that it is used inappropriately in the admission process,” the report reads. 

“Nevertheless, BOARS recognizes that in the intensely competitive college admission environment in which UC operates, we have an obligation to reassure the general public that the values implicit in our selection criteria and processes are appropriate.” 

The report found that UC Davis and UC San Diego, which assign point values to non-academic factors in a weighted admissions formula, did not place undue emphasis on hardship. UC San Diego weighted factors like community service and leadership at almost 11 percent and hardship at almost 13 percent. Academic factors counted for almost 77 percent. The UC Davis figures were similar. 

The study found no wrongdoing at UC Berkeley or other campuses which do not use fixed weights, but encouraged them “to conduct analysises that will illuminate the role of ‘hardship’ in their decisions and to communicate the results of those analysises broadly.” 

The UC Board of Regents is set to review the BOARS study this week at meetings in San Francisco. During a September meeting Regent Ward Connerly, who authored Proposition 209, called for an independent study of comprehensive review to allay public concerns that it provides a way around the ban on considering race in admissions. 

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, also a Regent, blasted the idea and said the university should wait for the BOARS report. 

The BOARS committee supported comprehensive review prior to conducting last week’s study. 


Contact reporter at scharfenberg@