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High, Low SATs Not Decisive at UCLA

As at Berkeley, some with top scores are rejected while others with below-average marks are admitted.

October 23, 2003|Stuart Silverstein and Rebecca Trounson | Times Staff Writers

UCLA rejected more than 3,000 students with extremely high scores on the SAT entrance exam over the past two years and accepted more than 900 students with results that were far below the campus average.

The newly released figures from UCLA mirror a similar disclosure earlier this month regarding admissions at UC Berkeley. The two campuses are the most selective of the eight undergraduate institutions in the University of California system.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday October 29, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 2 inches; 63 words Type of Material: Correction
UC admissions -- Articles on University of California admissions that ran in the California section on Thursday and Friday incorrectly implied that UC's two-year-old "comprehensive review" policy emphasizes personal achievements more than grades and test scores in considering applicants. Under the policy, UC considers personal factors as well as academic ones for every applicant, but academics remain the top priority in the procedure.

The UCLA figures add to a controversy that has been roiling the prestigious UC system for weeks. The flap originated when The Times reported the findings of a confidential report to the UC Board of Regents in which UC Berkeley's admissions practices were strongly criticized. The primary author of the report, regents chairman John J. Moores, contended that admitting less-than-qualified students could erode the top school's quality.

UC officials have defended their admissions practices at Berkeley and elsewhere, saying that the SAT, a widely used test, is a weak indicator of future college performance.

The system over the past two years has shifted to a procedure called comprehensive review to consider freshman applicants, an approach that places less emphasis on test scores and grades and more on other factors, including leadership, socioeconomic challenges and personal achievement.

"Looking at any one factor, such as SAT scores, is contrary to the whole concept of comprehensive review," said Tom Lifka, who oversees admissions as assistant vice chancellor of student academic services. "This shows us that it's just not a very relevant way of looking at things."

According to UCLA figures, 1,663 applicants with SAT scores totaling more than 1400 were rejected for this fall's freshman class, and 1,646 with SATs at that level were turned away the year before.

Scores on the test range from a low of 400 to a high of 1,600. The average SAT score for incoming freshmen at UCLA is 1333.

UCLA accepted 407 applicants for this fall's class with SATs below 1000. The year before, the Westwood campus offered admission to 525 students with SATs below 1000, including seven with scores ranging from 701 to 800. The average score nationally is slightly above 1,000.

While UC officials defend their approach, President Robert C. Dynes agreed this month, in response to Moores' concerns, to launch a broad analysis of admissions at its campuses.

UCLA said in a prepared statement that this year's freshman class has "the highest academic quality ever for a UCLA entering class."

The school noted that the average high school grade point average, including honors and advanced placement courses, was 4.24 for accepted freshman, up from 4.23 a year earlier. In addition, it said scores on subject tests, called SAT II exams, also were up.

UCLA officials said their admissions policy was consistent with guidelines established by the University of California Board of Regents and faculty. Those standards, UCLA noted, state that academic qualifications should be given top priority and, at the same time, the admissions process should provide some access to students from low-income families and poor high schools.

UCLA officials also said that students with high SAT scores who were rejected by the campus were turned away for such reasons as having comparatively low grade point averages. Other rejected students applied to especially competitive programs in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of Arts and Architecture or the School of Theatre, Film and Television, they said. Still others were rejected because they failed to meet the higher standards for out-of-state applicants or because they fell short in the "personal achievement" and "life challenges" criteria used by the admissions office.

Moores contends that he undertook his analysis of UC Berkeley's practices after hearing complaints from parents that the admissions process was confusing and opaque.

And UC Regent Ward Connerly, who led the effort to ban affirmative action, has argued that the more flexible admissions standards might be an attempt to get around the ban, which barred consideration of race and ethnicity in public institutions, including colleges and universities.

UC officials deny the allegation, saying comprehensive review allows schools to evaluate applicants more completely.

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