NEW ORLEANS — The University of New Orleans lost more than 800 students between last year and this year.
State higher education leaders tell The Advocate stricter admission standards are needed as Louisiana transitions to a new model where college completion trumps college access. But college officials across the state say the impact of the standards could lead to lower enrollment numbers.
UNO was joined by LSU, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and Louisiana Tech University this fall as the first four schools prohibited from offering remedial courses to freshmen who are not quite ready for college-level coursework.
Critics of Louisiana’s higher education system contend the state has historically been far too willing to funnel ill-prepared students into four-year schools a trend, they say, contributed to Louisiana having the South’s second-lowest graduation rate.
State Commissioner of Higher Education Jim Purcell explained that the Louisiana Board of Regents, the state’s top higher education board, shifted its goals from a decade ago, when the aim was to increase enrollment, to a new model stressing the importance of leaving school with a degree in hand.
The new “Access to Success” model was made possible by the expansion of Louisiana’s community colleges, which are supposed to thrive on students who need remedial, or developmental, courses.
More than 80,000 students enrolled last year in community and technical colleges in Louisiana, which accounts for about 35 percent of all undergraduates in public colleges.
Starting this fall, students needed to complete an extra social studies class and an additional math or science course to get into a four-year school; class rank would no longer help them; and schools calculated grade-point averages only on the “Core 4 curriculum” of math, science, English and social studies.
Most of the state’s public schools began requiring minimum core grade-point averages ranging from 2.0 to 2.5 out of a 4.0 scale, and minimum ACT scores ranging from 20 to 25 out of a possible 36. In some cases, lower standardized test scores could be offset by high GPAs.
LSU previously established the stricter requirement of a 3.0 GPA on core classes.
Requiring higher standards in the core curriculum has helped students fare better on their ACTs and has reduced the number of students needing developmental courses, Purcell said.
The policy shift also came in response to a state Legislature that had become increasingly alarmed as more and more dollars were being spent on remedial education at four-year schools, regents Chief of Staff Kim Hunter Reed said.