Many states have implemented automatic admissions policies that grant their high school graduating students admissions to that state’s universities. Some states, such as Iowa, have had their automatic admissions policy since before affirmative action had become a highly researched topic. Other states, such as California, Florida, and Texas, implemented their policies specifically to try and find race-neutral means to implement affirmative action plans. Yet while some states implemented these policies to increase minority enrollment, the midwestern states who have automatic admissions don’t seem to be motivated by a need to increase minority enrollment. Instead, states like Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, and Kansas seem to be fueled by a need to try and increase enrollment at their state universities as well as trying to keep highly educated individuals inside their respective states. Thus, while automatic admissions policies can be seen as a way to try and implement race-neutral affirmative action plans, these types of plans can also be used to try and increase the knowledge and skills their citizens as well as promote higher education in general and increase enrollment to universities that have been experiencing a decline in enrollment.
Arizona offers freshman applicants who have graduated from regionally accredited high schools the opportunity to qualify for what Arizona calls “Assured Admission.” Assured Admission guarantees admittance to an Arizona University that is a part of the Arizona University System but does not guarantee admission to a specific degree program or to all courses offered by the university.
Assured Admission requires for (1) the freshman applicant to have fewer than 12 transferable college credits post-high school; (2) must have met the 16 academic coursework competency requirements; and (3) demonstrate aptitude for coursework by earning a 3.0 unweighted core GPA on a 4.00 = A scale or rank in the top 25 percent of their graduating high school class. Arizona also allows for ACT and SAT scores to demonstrate aptitude in the required coursework subject areas or to transfer college credit as a show of aptitude in the coursework.
- Arizona Board of Regents, Regent Policy No. 2-121 Undergraduate Admission (2020).
- Arizona Board of Regents, Regent Policy No. 2-121(A) Freshman Applicants.
- Arizona Board of Regents, Regent Policy No. 2-121(A)(1)(a) Assured Admission.
- Arizona Board of Regents, Regent Policy No. 2-121(C) Core Competencies.
The California Board of Regents has established methods for freshman applicants to be identified as Eligible in a Statewide Context (ESC) or Local Context (ELC) to University of California campuses. This Eligible status does not guarantee admissions to the campus that an applicant applies to, but if the applicant is not admitted to any campus they apply to, they will be offered admission at a UC campus with available space.
In order for an applicant to be deemed ESC they must have (1) taken 15 specific high school year-long courses as outlined by the Regents Policy; (2) have a minimum GPA of 3.0; (3) submit scores on an approved test of mathematics, language arts, and writing that meet the minimum score as determined by the Academic Senate; and lastly (4) their combined high school GPA and test scores places them in the top 9 percent of California public high school graduates.
For an applicant to be deemed ELC they must have (1) taken 15 specific high school year-long courses as outlined by the Regents Policy; (2) have a minimum GPA of 3.0; and lastly (3) be in the top nine percent of their class at the end of the 11th grade.
While the University of California has not required standardized test scores for applicants to become ELC since it first started that admissions process back in 2012, starting with the 2021 Fall Semester California will no longer require campus to take into consideration ACT/SAT scores for admissions processes except for when determining whether an applicant is ESC. For the Fall 2023 and Fall 2024 admissions campuses will not be able to consider ACT/SAT scores except for when determining ESC. The University of California has also undertaken the task to create its own standardized test which should be ready for use in the Fall 2025 admissions process. But even if it is not ready, the ACT/SAT will still not be taken into consideration.
California has stated that it implemented its ESC and ELC admissions as a means to try and boost admissions of students that have been disadvantaged by the prior admissions process. It has referenced economic disadvantages as well as racial bias as reasons for implementing these process as well as its recent abandonment of the ACT/SAT.
- California Board of Regents, May 21, 2020 Meeting Section 5. College Entrance Exam Use In University of California Undergraduate Admissions (2020).
- California Board of Regents, Regent Policy No. 2103 Policy on Undergraduate Admissions.
Florida has created an automatic admissions program called the Talented Twenty Program, which grants automatic admissions to one of twelve state universities, although an applicant cannot choose which state university they will be admitted into. The Talented Twenty Program does not take into consideration ACT/SAT scores, but one does require for one of the tests to be taken.
In order to qualify for automatic admissions under the Talented Twenty program an applicant must have (1) graduated form a Florida high school; (2) completed eighteen specific high school credits; (3) be in the top twenty percent of their high school graduating class; (4) submitted an ACT/SAT test score; and (5) meet or exceed a minimum test score on one of the approved standardized tests as outlined per Board of Governors Regulations 6.008.
Florida implemented the Talented Twenty Program as a means to try and increase diversity at state universities without the need for consideration for race in admissions. At the time of its implementation Governor Bush had stated that he believed that the Talented Twenty Program was a good race-neutral solution to a difficult problem.
- Board of Governors Rule 6.002 Admission of Undergraduate First-Time-in-College, Degree Seeking Freshman (2020).
- Board of Governors Rule 6.008 Postsecondary College-Level Preparatory Testing, Placement, and Instruction for State Universities (2020).
- Marin, Patricia & Lee, Edgar K., Appearance and Reality in the Sunshine State: The Talented 20 Program in Florida, Cambridge, MA: The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University (2003).
In 2015 the State Board of Education approved a new admissions initiative that it named the Direct Admissions Plan. Students are granted automatic admissions to Idaho’s eight public universities and colleges if they meet a benchmark created by the State Board of Education that takes into account the students’ GPA and college entrance exam score. Those students that do not meet the benchmark are instead admitted to the six state public higher education institutions that offer certificate or associate degree programs. Regardless any student can apply to any state college if they were not granted automatic admissions to it.
The Direct Admissions Plan was put in place to help the State Board of Education try and reach its goal of having sixty percent of Idaho citizens, between the age of 25 and 34, with a post-secondary degree or certificate. The State Board of Education also said it wanted to help create a highly educated citizenry as well as better prepare its students to enter the workforce.
- Idaho State Board of Education, Governing Policies and Procedures § III.Q Admission Standards (2021).
- Kevin Richert, Statehouse Roundup, 2.14.17: Go-On Numbers Remain Flat, IDEDNEWS (Feb. 02, 2017).
Illinois’s Public University Uniform Admission Act began to take effect for the 2020-2021, and it grants automatic admissions to Illinois students. In order to qualify for automatic admissions, the student must have (1) graduated in the top ten percent of their graduating class; (2) completed the ACT/SAT; and (3) successfully have met the minimum college preparatory curriculum requirements established by law for admission to the university. The Act also has a section listing requirements for automatic admissions for children of fallen police officers, firefighters, or department of corrections employees.
The justification given for this Act, was to encourage more Illinois students to apply to state universities as well as encourage high performing students to stay in Illinois and graduate. Although Representatives that sponsored the Act did state that it was also intended as a form of affirmative action for minority students and other underrepresented groups in the state.
- 110 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 118/15 Automatic Admission (2020).
- Sharita Forrest, Direct College Admissions Conference on Campus Dec. 6, Illinois News Bureau (Nov. 22, 2019).
Iowa has been providing automatic admissions to its state universities since the late 1950’s when it would only require for students to graduate in the top half of their class. Yet, in 2006 it created the Regents Admission Index (RAI) which determined who would get automatic admissions to any of the three regent universities.
Each Iowa student is given an RAI score which is calculated using a formula that takes into account (1) ACT score; (2) high school GPA; and (3) the number of high school courses completed in core subject areas. The RAI is an actual equation that the Illinois statute shows how to calculate, and a minimum score required for automatic admissions is currently 245.
Iowa has had automatic admissions statutes for a long time, so it is difficult to determine what the justifications for implementing that policy were. Although state legislators have drawn attention to wanting to increase the number of high school graduates who decide to go to college in Iowa. Iowa universities sometimes also face issues of declining college-going populations, which could also explain why Iowa’s automatic admissions policy guarantees admissions to any of the three regents university as opposed to the policy in other states which guarantees admission, but not necessarily to the university that a student might want.
- Iowa Board of Regents, Policy No. 681.1.1 Admission of Undergraduate Students Directly From Highschool (2018).
- Vanessa Miller, Iowa is Unique in Offering In-State Students Guaranteed Admission to Public Universities of Their Choice, The Gazette (Aug. 28, 2019).
Kansas has an automatic admissions policy that it names Qualified Admissions which guarantees admission to students who graduate from qualified Kansas high schools. Qualified Admissions applies to the six state universities and grants automatic admissions based on ACT/SAT scores or Cumulative GPA. While the students can gain automatic admissions to any of the six state universities, Kansas State and Kansas University have different standards required for their ACT/SAT score or GPA score.
Qualified Admissions used to require the completion of a pre-college curriculum and also allowed for a student to bypass the ACT/SAT score requirement if they were in the top third of their class, but starting in the 2020-2021 academic school year that requirement is no longer needed. Kansas has seen a decrease in enrollment at its state universities which could help explain why the completion of a pre-college curriculum was dropped, although the Board of Regents was supposed to update the Qualified Admissions standards since the old standards were set to expire after June 1, 2021.
- Jonathan Shorman, Kansas Just Changed How Students Get Into Universities, and a Significant Rule is Gone, The Wichita Eagle (Sept. 18, 2019).
- The Kansas Board of Regents, Regulation No. 88-29 Qualified Admissions Rules and Regulations (2020).
Mississippi has an automatic admissions policy that guarantees admissions to its state public universities. The policy requires that students complete a required college preparatory curriculum and have a minimum GPA of 3.2. If the GPA is 2.5, or the student is in the top fifty percent of their class, then a student can still be guaranteed admissions if they have an ACT score of 16, or if the GPA is 2.0 they can still be guaranteed admissions if they have an ACT score of 18, or if they satisfy the NCAA Division I standards for student athletes who are “full-qualifiers” or “academic redshirts.” SAT scores can also be substituted for the ACT scores, but the completion of the college preparatory curriculum is required no matter what GPA a student has.
- Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning, Section 602 Freshman Admission Requirements for University System Institutions (2020).
Missouri offers automatic admissions to its state universities with different standards based on whether the university classifies itself as highly selective, selective, moderately selective, or open enrollment. Automatic admissions are granted to those students who completed 23 or fewer credit hours and attained a certain combined percentile score. The percentile score is based off of percentile rank and ACT/SAT scores and the combined percentile score required depends on what category the university classifies itself as, although public two-year colleges must classify themselves as open enrollment.
- Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development, Policies & Guidelines, Admissions-Selectivity. https://dhewd.mo.gov/policies/admissions-selectivity.php.
Montana’s Board of Regents has an automatic admissions policy for Montana’s state universities outlining how students can be fully admitted. Admissions is granted if the student (1) completed the Regent’s College Preparatory Program; (2) demonstrates mathematics and writing proficiency; and (3) shows general preparation for college. How to demonstrate proficiency in mathematics and writing as well as show preparation for college is outlined in the Board of Regents policy and can be done through class rank, GPA, or ACT/SAT although ACT/SAT scores are not required in order to get automatic admission
- Montana board of Regents of Higher Education, Policy No. 301.1 Admission Requirements for Undergraduates into Four-year University Programs (2020).
The South Dakota Board of Regents grants automatic admissions to high school graduates who are designated as Regents Scholars. In order to be considered a Regents Scholar a student must have an average grade of a B with no final grade below a C in all the specific courses that the Board of Regents policy outlines; no ACT/SAT scores are required to be considered a Regents Scholar. This policy grants automatic admissions to all six of South Dakota’s public universities.
South Dakota has had the Regents Scholar Curriculum since 1988, but it was not until 2001 that the Regents Scholar diploma was established and granted students with automatic admissions to the States public universities.
South Dakota Bibliography
- South Dakota Board of Regents, Policy No. 2:3 System Undergraduate Admissions (2020).
Texas has had its Top Ten Percent Plan since 1997 and it granted automatic admissions to Texas public universities. When it was first enacted it granted automatic admissions to students who (1) graduated in the top ten percent of their high school; (2) graduated from a Texas high school, private or public; (3) successfully completed the curriculum requirements for the distinguished level of achievement or an equivalent curriculum if the distinguished level does not apply to their high school; and (4) satisfied certain ACT/SAT scores.
Yet, due to universities filling most of their incoming freshman class from students who qualified under the Top Ten Percent Plan, the Texas legislature eventually amended the requirement for a student to graduate in the top ten percent of their high school. Instead, now, the university is only required fill up to 75% of its incoming freshman class with students who qualified under the Top Ten Percent Plan. In order to do this a university can, choose a different top percentile rank, such as top eight percent of a graduating class, in order to fill seventy-five percent of its incoming freshman class, but it must make it know which percentile ranks will qualify for automatic admissions, or at least which percentile ranks the University believes will qualify.
Texas enacted the Top Ten Percent Plan in the wake of Hopwood v. Texas (1996) in an attempt to increase minority enrollment into universities through a race-neutral means after the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that the Bakke precedent did not control and diversity was not a compelling educational interest justifying the use of admissions preferences. The legislature specifically said its goal was to increase minority enrollment, stressing that there were high schools in certain parts of Texas that had a predominantly minority student body so that for those schools it was more likely for minorities to be in the top percentile of the graduating class, thus granting them automatic admissions to the state’s top universities. During the Supreme Court case, Fisher v. University of Texas, the Court acknowledged that this was the goal of the Texas legislature but did not question the program’s constitutionality.
- Fisher v. University of Texas, 570 U.S. 297 (2013).
- Hopwood v. Texas, 78 F.3d 932 (5th Cir. 1996).
- House Research Organization, Bill Analysis, HB 588 (Apr. 15, 1997).
- Tex. Educ. Code Ann. § 51.803 (2019).