Admission changes show no impact on diversity

In a recent report, University of California faculty found that changes to their school's admissions policies had no significant impact on the racial makeup or academic quality of its incoming freshman class.

The study, made public this week, examined the repercussions of a new policy in effect at the university's six most selective campuses: Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Barbara.

Under new policies adopted in November of last year, the admissions criteria of these institutions have been expanded to include non-academic factors, such as special talents and encounters with adversity.

Called "comprehensive review" by the university's admissions officials, the policy already has sparked controversy as a potential means of averting Proposition 209, which outlaws the use of race in University of California admissions. The plan, approved by the University of California's Board of Regents last November, was used to select this year's freshman class.

Lavonne Luquis, a spokeswoman for the University of California, denied that the new policy is a back-door approach to considering race in admissions.

"It's not true, and the report examines these claims," Luquis said. "Our policy never purported to change racial compositions."

Although the faculty report indicates the proportion of minority students admitted generally has remained consistent under the plan, Los Angeles and San Diego did experience substantial increases. The percentage of minority students at Los Angeles rose from 15.6 to 17 percent, while San Diego saw a jump from 11.1 to 14.2 percent.

According to Luquis, the increase in diversity at these campuses was not a byproduct of the changed admissions policy.

"There has been a trend there predating comprehensive review," Luquis said. "The growth [in diversity] has been in that trend."

Luquis added the trend could partially be attributed to admissions outreach work.

Although the evaluation process of applications differs within the school system -- not all campuses use fixed weighting systems, for instance -- academic ability remains the most important qualification for all UC schools, Luquis said.

University Admissions Dean John A. Blackburn said the University already considers non-academic factors when evaluating applicants.

"The context in which academic achievements are earned is very important to us," Blackburn said.

He added that the University of California's comprehensive review plan "simply looks at the context of a student

most colleges and universities consider that as a part of their admissions process."

In addition to a student's academic transcript, teacher recommendations and essays, admissions officials also consider non-traditional factors, such as art portfolios, performance video tapes or works appearing in written publications, Blackburn said.

Nonetheless, "academics are the highest priority," he added.

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