Regents Should Tighten Admissions Standards ; OUR VIEW: With UA, ASU Tuition Rates Up Sharply, the Cost of Failure Is Now Too High

AZ Daily Star, July 12, 2015 | Go to article overview

Regents Should Tighten Admissions Standards ; OUR VIEW: With UA, ASU Tuition Rates Up Sharply, the Cost of Failure Is Now Too High


The Board of Regents, which governs Arizona's universities, should consider tightening admissions requirements to the University of Arizona and Arizona State University.

Sixty percent of UA students and 63 percent of ASU students graduate within six years. Those numbers reflect the state's decision to admit marginally prepared students, with the full knowledge that about 40 percent won't earn degrees.

The idea behind the generous admissions policy -- one we've agreed with in the past -- is that a college degree is a ticket to a better life for many, and taxpayer-supported schools should offer that opportunity.

The downside to the policy, as the statistics show, is that thousands won't succeed.

What has changed our thinking about admissions is the high cost of failure. Annual tuition and fees at the UA total about $10,890, up 66 percent from five years ago.

It was five years ago that the regents established annual goals for the two schools to improve retention and graduation rates. Both schools began taking aggressive steps, as they described to the Star then. The UA vice president for student affairs, Melissa Vito, told us that improving student retention was the No. 1 rallying cry in her office. ASU President Michael Crow wrote in the Star that retention and graduation were "a significant challenge" and that they "should be at the heart of public higher education concerns in Arizona."

Outcomes have improved, although not to the level the regents expect at this point. The UA has increased freshman retention from 77 percent five years ago to nearly 82 percent now. The comparable numbers at ASU are 81 percent and 86 percent. The UA's six-year graduation rate improved from 58 percent to 60 percent. At ASU it's up from nearly 59 percent to 63 percent.

As the accompanying chart shows, the UA still performs well below most of the schools it considers its peers. …

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