University may raise admission bar

Colorado Mesa University will go from “moderately selective” to “selective” in picking its students if a bill is approved by the state Legislature this session.

House Bill 1324 proposes changing state statute to include Colorado Mesa among the list of schools with “selective” admission standards. The bill, which also increases the size of the university’s board of trustees from 11 members to 13, passed the House Education Committee 12–0 Monday and will next appear on the House floor. If it becomes law, the university’s board of trustees would vote as early as May 2 to change the school’s admission standards, according to Colorado Mesa President Tim Foster.

All Colorado colleges and universities accept a majority of their students based on whether the students meet a minimum admission index score. That score is 85 at Colorado Mesa but would likely move up to 92 if the school becomes selective. Admission index scores are based on students’ high school grade point averages or class rank and their ACT or SAT scores. A student with an admissions index of 92 could, for example, have an ACT of 24 and a grade point average of 2.4 or an ACT score of 18 and a grade point average of 3.1, among other combinations.

Foster said the average first-year student entering Colorado Mesa last fall had an index score of 103. He said the average first-year index score has increased ever since the school changed its minimum from 80 to 85, effective in 2007. Retention has also increased since the switch.

“Over the past four years, we’ve gotten a better grip on what it takes to be successful. If they do well, they are more likely to stay,” Foster said.

To help students do well, he said the school still accepts students with an index score below 85, but directs those them either to Western Colorado Community College or accepts them to Colorado Mesa on a provisional basis with the understanding that the students will take certain classes that are not above their skill set and that the students will only take a certain amount of hours so they do not become overwhelmed with homework.

Foster said that practice would continue with a minimum index of 92, but the bar would be raised higher for who would be accepted outright and who would be accepted on a provisional basis.

“The whole point of this is two things: one, success of students, and two, what our students look like from an academic standpoint,” Foster said. “We’re getting a better quality of students.”

If Colorado Mesa becomes “selective,” it would leave the admission ranks of Colorado State University at Pueblo, Western State College, and Adams State College and be in the same standard tier as the University of Colorado in Boulder, Denver and in Colorado Springs, Colorado State University in Fort Collins, the University of Northern Colorado and Fort Lewis College.

Earlier in the day, the full House preliminarily approved two measures giving university status to Adams State College in Alamosa and Metro State College in Denver.

The measures are similar to Colorado Mesa’s name change last year, and for some of the same reasons, that a university degree helps graduates get jobs better than a college one. 

“Someone graduating with a four-year degree, it c an be a phenomenal degree, they could have worked very hard, they could have had perfect grades,” said Rep. Robert Ramirez, R-Westminster. “But because their transcript says such-and-such college versus the one that says such-and-such university, they’re being excluded from positions and excluded from opportunities.”

Though both measures passed overwhelmingly, a few legislators opposed the name changes, saying too many Colorado universities competing against each other detracts from them all.

“As we’re doing all these name changes from colleges to universities, I think it promotes mission creep,” said Rep. Spencer Swalm, R-Centennial. “It sort of tends to give an inflated sense of what these institutions are about.”

A third name-change bill to turn Western State College in Gunnison to Western State Colorado University is expected to be introduced soon.

Sentinel reporter Charles Ashby contributed to this report.


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