Alumni Fight Grambling Admissions Standards: Student Retention Rates Could Improve under New Standards, Louisiana Officials Say

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BATON ROUGE, La.

Plans to impose new admissions standards for Grambling State University freshmen are being challenged in a federal lawsuit that claims the change may threaten the mission of the historically Black university.

The lawsuit, filed by the Grambling University National Alumni Association, a host of other alumni, students and former employees, claims that state officials are not acting in the best interests of Grambling by requiring incoming freshmen to complete certain college-prep courses in high school.

In an interview, alumni association president James Bradford said Grambling had traditionally maintained an open admissions policy that fit into its historic mission of educating poor Black students.

Noting that Grambling's enrollment is declining, Bradford warned that the increased admissions standards may drive away many Black students. He also fears that Grambling will become more attractive to non-Blacks, potentially changing the character of the university.

The lawsuit targets Grambling President Horace Judson, the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors, University of Louisiana System President Sally Clausen and the Louisiana Board of Regents.

In addition to challenging the admissions standards, the lawsuit lists 42 other allegations that range from "engaging in scare tactics to intimidate university employees" to creating an atmosphere of instability that is reflected by constant turnover at the top--Grambling has had six presidents since 1991.

Louisiana Higher Education Commissioner Joseph Savoie, who works with the board of regents to develop policies for the state's colleges and universities, says establishing admissions standards will ultimately increase Grambling's enrollment by improving its retention rate.

For years, Grambling and most of Louisiana's other four-year public universities maintained an open admissions policy that accepted anyone with a high school diploma, regardless of courses or grades.

Savoie notes that the lack of requirements for a solid college prep curriculum helped contribute to the state's excessive college dropout rate, which for years was the worst in the nation.

"We weren't doing anyone any good under the old open admissions policy, when we knew that two-thirds of the freshmen who were admitted probably would not complete their degrees within six years," he says.

By requiring students to take the high-school courses that they need to succeed in college, Savoie says Grambling will improve its retention and graduation rates.

Most other Louisiana four-year colleges and universities were required to have admissions standards in place by 2005 as part of the settlement of the long-running federal lawsuit over the desegregation of Louisiana's public universities. …

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