Academic journal article College and University

Race, Graduating Performance, and Admissions: Georgia State University's Freshman Index

Academic journal article College and University

Race, Graduating Performance, and Admissions: Georgia State University's Freshman Index

Article excerpt

The Freshman Index, a combination of SAT score and high school grade point average, is the primary mechanism facilitating admissions decisions at Georgia State University. This article examines the relationships between these three admissions criteria and the graduating grade point averages of Asian, Black, and White six-year graduates. Additionally, this article examines the impact of limiting the analysis to graduates with "strong" (75th percentile) admissions criteria. This research indicates that the Freshman Index explains more variation in graduating grade point averages than either SAT score alone or high school grade point average alone for all graduates. However, caution is warranted as high school grade point average alone explains a comparable amount of variation in graduating grade point average and explains more variation for students with strong admission profiles.

Background

Georgia State University's (GSU) freshman index (FI) is the primary admissions mechanism for its admissions decisions.

GSU's formula for computing the FI is as follows:

(High school grade point average [HSA] x 500) + SAT Math + SAT Verbal = Freshman Index

By including sat scores in the calculation of the FI, admissions decisions at GSU are based, to some degree, on a mechanism that has a long and contentious history. The precursor to the sat and tests like it is the intelligence, or aptitude, test. Carl Brigham, one of the individuals intimately involved in developing what was to become the SAT, cautioned against the possibility of devolving into "pseudo-phrenology" (Lemann 1999, p.33) and in a later communication asserted that "test scores very definitely are a composite including schooling, family background, familiarity with English, and everything else, relevant and irrelevant. The 'native intelligence' hypothesis is dead" (Lemann 1999, p.34). In fact, the "native intelligence" hypothesis is not dead (Brigham 1929; Herrnstein and Murray 1994), but to be fair, the College Boarrd no longer describes the sat as either an aptitude or an intelligence test. "SAT" is now an empty acronym.

The College Board asserts that the sat provides the means to make objective, merit-based decisions as to which students should earn access to limited postsecondary opportunities. The College Board offers a response to the persistent problem of deciding on what basis opportunity should be distributed. For the College Board (2004b), the SAT is a solution to this problem because it provides "a common and objective scale for comparison;" for others, the SAT poses a continuing problem of being on the "wrong side" of the distribution decision of a system that "has artificially decided on selection rules that ultimately determine which traits win out" (Sacks 2001, p.219).

It is folly to ignore the fact that the SAT has "a historical tie to the concept of innate mental abilities and that such abilities can be defined and meaningfully measured" (Atkinson 2001/2002, p.31). While it is important to acknowledge the evolution of the sat from a mechanism driven by biogenetic concerns (Scholastic Aptitude Test) to its present iteration as the SAT, it also is important to consider the degree to which the SAT and the debate around its use continue to possess "the residue of the Census of Abilities" (Lemann 1999, p.4).

Despite the national reliance on the SAT in admissions decisions, criticism of the test is abundant. The College Board (2006) indicates that "each institution has a unique mission and institutional goals and must develop and implement admissions policies and procedures that are not only consistent with, but also serve to advance those goals." However, if an institution is truly interested in ethnic and socioeconomic diversity, the SAT can prove to be a problematic mechanism. The College Board's own data reveal that the SAT is persistently and highly correlated with family income (2004a) and parental education (2004b). …

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