Nevada university admission standards

U.S. News & World Report published its annual college rankings this week and, as usual, UNLV and UNR commanded precious little print. UNLV is stuck in the fourth tier of institutions, too undistinguished to warrant an individual ranking, and UNR was unranked because it didn’t submit enough information to the magazine.

At the same time the rankings were being digested by college applicants around the country, a handful of Nevada higher education officials and activists were working hard to make sure UNLV and UNR stay right where they are. They fought to keep the public universities’ admission standards from rising again.

The university system plans to require incoming freshmen to have a minimum high school grade-point average of 3.0 — a B average — starting in the fall of 2008. The Board of Regents, meeting this week in Reno, heard a proposal backed by UNLV President David Ashley to delay that increase until 2009.

Last year, for the first time in a generation, UNLV and UNR raised the minimum high school GPA for incoming freshmen, from 2.5 to 2.75. As expected, students who just missed the cut have been diverted to the state’s community colleges and Nevada State College at Henderson. These institutions give less-proficient students a chance to bolster their core skills at a lower cost per credit while keeping them on a path to eventual admission at UNLV or UNR.

However, the educrats who pay more attention to skin color and surnames than actual achievement aren’t pleased with this development. They’re pointing to declining minority enrollment at UNLV as proof that the tougher admission standards are destroying their dreams of diversity. Since the boost in the GPA requirement, Hispanic and black enrollment has fallen off at UNLV. Hispanic enrollment dropped at UNR as well, although black enrollment at UNR increased under the new standards.

“I think that it’s elitist,” Tom Rodriguez, the executive manager of the Clark County School District’s Diversity and Affirmative Action Programs, said about efforts to raise the minimum GPA entrance standard.

Never mind that minority enrollment has jumped at the College of Southern Nevada and Nevada State College over the same period, proving that blacks and Hispanics aren’t being denied an opportunity to earn a college degree.

Universities are supposed to offer more rigorous scholarship than community colleges. Universities, ideally, attract the best and brightest students — young men and women who’ve demonstrated they have the language, math and critical-thinking skills to tackle difficult subject matter.

For too long, UNLV and UNR have accepted students — minority and nonminority — who had no business graduating from high school, let alone enrolling at a university with doctoral programs. In doing so, the state set up these students for failure. Unprepared for the rigors of university courses, they take up space in lecture halls, then drop out. These students are much better off starting their undergraduate pursuits elsewhere.

The dip in minority enrollment that has resulted from the first increase in admission requirements was to be expected. Given time, all Nevada high school students will adjust their sights to the higher admissions bar, and the numbers will correct.

And PC defeatists such as Mr. Rodriguez need to stop making excuses for Southern Nevada teens. Mr. Rodriguez, who for years has drawn a taxpayer-funded salary to spread the gospel of low expectations among minorities, has since 1988 made the de facto argument that most blacks and Hispanics aren’t capable of attaining a 2.75 high school GPA, let alone a 3.0. This is dangerous nonsense.

On Thursday, the Board of Regents wisely decided against delaying the 3.0 standard to 2009. UNLV and UNR will be better for it — sooner.

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