LARAMIE — Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill spoke out Friday against a proposal to raise University of Wyoming admissions requirements for first-year students, even though she said she’s been told the changes were a “done deal.”
In a presentation to skeptical UW trustees and officials, Hill said she’s “not opposed” to scrapping all first-year UW admissions standards altogether.
Shortly after Hill spoke, the trustees approved the increased “assured admission” standards for all UW freshmen to a 3.0 grade-point average and an ACT score of 21 beginning in fall 2013.
Under the old standards, the university guaranteed admission to in-state students with a minimum high school GPA of 2.75. Out-of-state students needed either a 3.0 GPA or a 2.75 GPA with an ACT score of 20.
The new standards also assure admission to students who have a minimum of four years of English, math and science; three years of social studies and two years of the same foreign language. The old standard was four years of English and three of math, science and social studies.
The changes match the Hathaway Success Curriculum, coursework designed to prepare students for college that is approved by the state Legislature.
In addition, after advocates for fine and performing arts lobbied strongly to include those courses in the standards, the board added two more years of subjects that can be chosen from fine and performing arts, career-technical classes, the humanities, additional foreign languages and social and behavioral studies.
“They’ve got a lot of flexibility, from agriculture to specific arts, music,” said UW board of trustees Chairman Jim Neiman. “They can fulfill those pretty easy.”
Hill argued students’ ACT scores and GPAs often aren’t reflective of their potential to succeed in college. She said she talked with one student in northern Wyoming who, while bright, grew up in a home without a father and with a drug-addicted mother and wouldn’t meet the heightened admissions standards.
“I don’t know that any of us should be judging who’s going to be successful,” Hill said. “There are people in this room who are high school dropouts and are very successful people. Very smart people don’t make the criteria that you have set, but it doesn’t mean they’re not capable of a college degree and being a significant contributor to our society.”
Hill said state education officials should perhaps discuss abolishing all UW assured admissions standards completely.
“I’d like to think that thoroughly through about what that means to this university to go completely without requirements,” she said. “But I’ll tell you: I’m not opposed to it.”
Several trustees and UW officials said they disagreed with Hill.
Neiman said raising standards isn’t meant as a move to restrict anyone from attending Wyoming’s only four-year institution of higher learning. But it’s important to make sure, he said, that the students UW admits won’t drop out because they’re unprepared for the college curriculum.
Wyoming ranks in the bottom half of states for retaining students from their first to second years of college.
Only 72 percent of first-year students in 2008 enrolled at UW the following year, according to The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.
“Our retention of students is very, very important to us,” Neiman said. “And everybody that we accept, we want them to be successful.”
UW board member Jim Trosper, who opposed the new standards, said he was “not convinced that raising admission standards is the most effective way to attain these goals.”
The new standards take effect in 2013.
Hill said she knew she was fighting an uphill battle, saying a couple of UW officials had told her prior to the vote that approval of the tougher admissions standards was a “done deal.” But she said she wanted to voice the opinions of many students, parents and educators throughout the state.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.