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UC To Expand Individualized Review Of Applications

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UC Berkeley

Students walk through Sather Gate on the University of California, Berkeley campus. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The University of California is expanding use of an undergraduate admissions process that evaluates students’ academic achievement in the context of their background and life experiences.

The UC Board of Regents on Thursday unanimously approved a resolution calling on all undergraduate campuses to use “individualized holistic review” of college applications. The full board’s approval follows the educational policy committee’s endorsement Wednesday.

“As all of our campuses become more selective, we believe this is a better way for campuses to assess individual student achievement,” said Sue Wilbur, UC’s director of undergraduate admissions. “It will give us an opportunity to find students whose talents and achievements might be overlooked.”

The Berkeley, Irvine and Los Angles campuses are already using holistic review, but some less selective UC campuses use computer formulas to admit most of their applicants, she said. The method is employed by most of the country’s highly selective colleges.

The resolution strongly encourages, but does not require, all campuses to adopt holistic review, which they say will provide greater consistency in UC admissions.

For the past decade, UC campuses have been evaluating students through a process known as “comprehensive review,” in which students are judged by 14 factors including grades, test scores, extracurricular activities and personal essays.

Under holistic review, reviewers consider those elements in the context of the academic opportunities available to them, looking at factors such as where they attended high school, how they compare to their peers, whether they worked or overcame personal obstacles. Each application is then given a single score used to determine admission.

UC officials say the policy change is not expected to have a major impact on which students will be admitted, but will make the admissions process more fair, thorough and sensitive to students’ individual circumstances.

Wilbur emphasized that the new approach is not an attempt to increase racial or ethnic diversity on campus or circumvent California’s ban on affirmative action in public college admissions.

“It is entirely about making sure we have identified the most deserving students in every high school,” Wilbur said.

The UC system is adopting the new approach as competition to gain admission increases and campuses become more selective.

Last week, UC officials reported that more than 142,000 students, a record number, applied for undergraduate admission for this coming fall. The 6.1 percent increase was partly driven by a spike in applications from out-of-state and international students.

At this week’s regents meeting in San Diego, UC President Mark Yudof warned that Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to cut UC funding by $500 million in the next fiscal year may force the university to further reduce the number of students it serves.

The regents are expected to consider options for dealing with a potential $1 billion budget shortfall — a $500 million budget cuts plus $500 million in increased costs — when it meets in March.

“This is not a sustainable trajectory,” Yudof said. “All of this suggests that we must now begin to take a hard look at whether to shorten the reach of the university in terms of enrollment.”

(© 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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