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Study: Proposed University of Wyoming Admission Standards Tough on Minorities

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Minority students would have a tougher time being automatically accepted to the University of Wyoming than White students under new admission standards being considered by the UW board of trustees.

According to a study by the university, 56 percent of Blacks, Native American and Hispanic students who entered UW in 2009 would be assured admission to the state’s only four-year university under the new standards, compared with 83 percent of White students.

Dr. Carol Frost, UW vice president for special projects and a geology professor, said UW has few minority students who, in 2009, represented just 109, or 6.8 percent, of the 1,594 students starting their first year of college.

“Apparently, compared to students as a whole, what they come in from high school with in terms of grades and test scores and what coursework they’ve taken they’re on average, a little lower,” Frost said Wednesday.

Minority students who entered UW in 2009 had average ACT scores of 21.9, compared with 24.1 for White students, the study showed.

“If you have an ACT below 21, that correlates strongly with the grades you get your first year at UW,” Frost said. “So a lot of those students are ending up on probation if we don’t provide them assistance.”

The proposed admission standards put more emphasis on math, science and foreign language courses taken in high school.

The university has been holding town hall meetings around the state to educate people about the proposal. A meeting Wednesday night in Cheyenne drew about 30 people.

One goal of the new standards is to better identify students who need extra help getting a college degree, Frost said.

“So in a way we’d like people to see this as a benefit,” she said. “That we’re not going to let them come and struggle.”

The proposed changes in the UW admission standards would assure admission for students who follow more rigorous curriculum requirements, have a high school GPA of at least 3.0 and score at least a 21 on the ACT college entrance exam.

However, even though UW’s admission standards might be toughened for automatic entry to the university, UW officials stress that the school will still accept high school graduates who have a minimum high school GPA of 2.25 and an ACT score of 20.

“We’re not changing the population that’s admitted to UW,” Frost said.

The university offers a special program to students who don’t meet the highest admission standards to help them succeed in college. The program teaches them such things as good study habits and how to deal with being away from home.

“The students who have been in that love it,” Frost said. “So these underrepresented students who don’t meet the ACT cutoff would be in that group.”

The university estimates that the number of students qualifying for the help would double from about 150 now to about 300 under the new standards.

In the study of 2009 students, 48 of the students needing help would be minorities and most of the others White.

Some people advocate including fine and performing arts courses in the new standards, saying research shows that arts education enhances performance in core academic subjects, such as math. Currently, fine and performing arts courses are not required in UW admission standards.

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