The Voice: Increasing standards increases graduates

The UCA Board of Trustees recently approved stricter admission standards for incoming students, which caused some concerns about the decision’s financial implications.

The changes are slight. For unconditional admission, students will require a 20 ACT score and a cumulative 2.75 GPA instead of a previous 19 ACT score and 2.5 GPA. Conditional admission requires a 17 ACT score instead of 16 and a 2.30 GPA instead of 2.25.

Raising admissions standards will undoubtedly affect university admission rates and, therefore, the money made from it.

However, the long-term financial benefits from increasing retention and graduation rates will eventually even out.

Placing more importance on these issues than in a brief financial stagnation is the best decision for the students’ benefit.

Of course, we all want more money for UCA, and it seems that limiting the number of incoming students takes away an integral financial source. But the amount of students who transfer out of UCA or drop out also takes a toll on revenue. Not only does raising standards help in keeping a steady income, but also in awards to the university.

In last week’s article about the new requirements, Executive Vice President and Provost of Academic Affairs Steve Runge said increasing graduation rates was more important to the university because it “influences performance funding.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislature’s website, performance funding is state money given to universities based on the amount of students working toward and completing degrees. Arkansas is among 30 states that adopted this supplemental financial model in addition to traditional state funding based on enrollment rates.

Enrollment-based financing often leads to universities increasing the number of incoming students and not maintaining the ones they already have. As Runge said, we should be doing more to help students achieve their goals instead of admitting greater numbers who aren’t all prepared to do so.

If it is harder to get into UCA, students who aren’t ready for our academic requirements might find somewhere else that fits them better.

Students who do come here might feel more confident that they didn’t get in because it was easy.

The amount of unprepared students in UCA’s Fall 2014 remedial courses was 29.7 percent of incoming students, a shocking amount compared to University of Arkansas—Fayetteville’s 8.5 percent remediation rate in the same semester.

Decreasing this percentage by tightening admission standards will also look better for UCA.

Statistics and goal orientation aside, it is admirable that the university is attempting to better its students and focus on their needs.

It comes from a financial standpoint, but the idea behind performance funding caters more to students’ interests than universities’ financial goals, which is something often lost in the education system.

If we keep up our graduation and credential degree requirement rates, we can add to the growing attention toward performance funding.

We can be part of a new financial system that looks to long-term student benefits instead of just admission rates.

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