More High School Students Meeting UC's Academic Eligibility Requirements

More California public high school students are meeting the University of California's eligibility requirements, according to a new report released today (May 19) by the California Postsecondary Education Commission.

In the high school graduating class of 2003, 14.4 percent of students met the UC system's academic entrance requirements, up from 11.1 percent for the class of 1996, the commission (CPEC) report found. The target set by the 1960 California Master Plan for Higher Education is 12.5 percent.

"These results indicate that more and more California high school students are working hard and excelling at the level needed to achieve UC eligibility," said M.R.C. Greenwood, UC provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. "They suggest there have been improvements in the accessibility of rigorous, college-preparatory courses in our high schools. And they point to the impact of our K-12 academic improvement programs and the Eligibility in the Local Context program in encouraging more students to prepare for a top-quality college education.

"While we are pleased by what these results say about educational attainment in California, we also are mindful of our commitments under the Master Plan. As is always the case following a CPEC eligibility study, our faculty will now propose adjustments to our eligibility standards to keep us close to the 12.5 percent target set by the Master Plan."

The Academic Senate expects to make a presentation to UC Board of Regents on possible changes to university eligibility requirements at the July regents' meeting.

"Eligibility" refers to the academic standards required for freshman admission to the UC system, though most individual campuses have higher standards due to the competition for spaces. Most students become "UC-eligible" by achieving grades in UC-approved college preparatory coursework (the "a-g" courses) and scores on standardized tests (three SAT II tests and the SAT I or ACT) that place them within a numerical index (called Eligibility in the Statewide Context).

Students also can become UC-eligible by achieving grades in the a-g courses that rank in the top 4 percent of their own high school's class (called Eligibility in the Local Context) or by achieving very high standardized test scores (called Eligibility by Examination Alone).

Eligible students are admitted to individual UC campuses using a process called "comprehensive review" that considers a wide variety of indicators of academic and personal achievement.

Under the Master Plan, which organized the modern public higher education system in California, UC is to offer admission to students in the top 12.5 percent (one-eighth) of the public high school graduating class, and CSU is to offer admission to the top 33.3 percent (one-third). Not all eligible students apply to or choose to enter these institutions; in recent years, approximately 7-8 percent of the public high school graduating class has enrolled at UC.

Every several years, the California Postsecondary Education Commission estimates the proportions of California public high school graduates who are actually meeting the UC and CSU eligibility requirements. The CPEC study is conducted by collecting a random sample of transcripts from high schools around the state. For this study, nearly 16,000 transcripts from 48 schools were evaluated.

In addition to estimating the overall statewide 2003 eligibility rate at 14.4 percent for UC, the CPEC report found that eligibility rates were up significantly for African American and Latino students, who traditionally have been underrepresented at the University of California. However, their rates are still far below those of other students and the statewide average.

In 2003, 6.2 percent of African American students were UC-eligible, the report said, compared with 2.8 percent in 1996. For Latinos, the figure was 6.5 percent in 2003 and 3.8 percent in 1996. For Asian students, the rates were 31.4 percent in 2003 and 30.0 percent in 1996. For white students, the rates were 16.2 percent in 2003 and 12.7 percent in 1996. For American Indian students, the 2003 estimate was 6.6 percent, and there was no 1996 estimate.

"Clearly there have been gains in academic preparation and UC eligibility for underrepresented students, and that is a very positive development," Greenwood said. "I expect that UC's academic improvement and college preparation programs in the K-12 schools have had something significant to do with that result. However, these results also indicate that, as a state, we still have a long way to go in providing equitable access to a high-quality K-12 education and a sure pathway to college."

The CPEC report also found that male students in the 2003 study achieved UC eligibility at 12.6 percent and female students at 16.2 percent.

With the results of the CPEC study, the UC faculty will propose to the Board of Regents adjustments in the university's eligibility criteria. Following the 1996 study, for instance, UC adopted the Eligibility in the Local Context program to boost the UC-eligible proportion of the graduating high school class from the 11.1 percent level identified in 1996.

Barbara Sawrey, chair of the Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS), the Academic Senate committee taking the lead in developing a proposal for adjustments to eligibility, said, "BOARS has been carefully studying options for setting eligibility criteria that would be met by 12.5 percent of the California public high school graduates, and that make it clear to students how they should prepare for UC. We hope to present our recommendations to the Academic Senate and the regents in the near future."

BOARS, the Academic Council and the Assembly of the Academic Senate already have approved a set of principles to guide recommendations for adjusting eligibility. They are:

The California Postsecondary Education Commission is a citizen board established to coordinate the efforts of California's colleges and universities and to provide independent analysis and recommendations to the governor and Legislature. The commission's eligibility study is available at www.cpec.ca.gov.

Details on UC's eligibility requirements are at www.ucop.edu/pathways/infoctr/introuc/fresh.html.

  1. Students should be able to determine whether they have met the criteria for eligibility prior to application.
  2. The University of California should be accessible to the best students from every high school in the state.
  3. The high school record in a-g courses should retain the highest importance among the criteria.
  4. We should continue to provide admission paths for students who may be educated in non-traditional schools and programs, and for those who might not meet statewide eligibility.
  5. BOARS should monitor statewide high school examinations and other tests that might in the future be considered for helping determine eligibility to UC.
  6. The definition of eligibility should be monitored and adjusted on a regular basis to ensure compliance with UC admissions goals.

Media Contact

Senior Public Information Representative
T: 209-228-4203