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Sjogren, Cliff 

College Admissions Requirements and Student 
Achievement in High School. 
Dec 83 

6p.; Paper presented at the meeting of the National 
Forum on Excellence in Education ( Indianapolis , IN, 
December 6-8, 1983/ . 
Speeches/Conference Papers ( 150 ) 

1IF01/PC01 Plus Postage. 

♦College Admission; ^College Curriculum; *College 
School Cooperationf Educational Quality; *Enrollment 
Influences; *Enrollment Trends; Higher Education; 
Secondary Education 



ABSTRACT 

A review of college admissions standards and 
practices during the past 25 years illustrates the degree to which 
higher education has influenced curriculum characteristics at the 
secondary school level. The cooperative relationships that existed 
between the two sectors in earlier years gave way to campus pressures 
in the mid 1960s. College enrollments expended, and priorities 
shifted from high school/college articulation matters to student 
restlessness, impatience, and activism. By the early 1970s, campus 
activists had gained a strong influence on college curriculum and 
grading systems. Higher education became more stable in the 
mid-1970s, while high schools became more flexible by incorporating 
less demanding curricula. College and high school pendulums were thus 
out of synchronization. In the late 1970s and today, college academic 
demands are frequently too severe for the quality of students 
admitted. At this point, local initiatives guided by flexible models, 
visible incentives, and standardized displays of results should be 
encouraged so that students and educators are motivated to exceed 
rather than conform to minimum standards. (BJD) 



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* Reproductions supplied by EDRS are the best that can be made * 

* from the original document, * 
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ERLC 



COLLEGE A DMISSIONS REQUIREMEN TS _ AND 
STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT IN HIGH SCHOO L 

National Forum on Excellence in Education 
Indianapolis, Indiana — December 1983 

Cliff Sjogren, Director of Admissions 
The University of Michigan 

,♦ 

A review of college admissions standards and practices during the 
past 25 years illustrates the degree to which higher education has 
influenced curriculum characteristics at the secondary school level. In 
1958, the National Defense Education Act provided impetus for a rapid and 
significant upgrading of secondary school programs, particularly in 
mathematics, science, foreign language, and guidance. Such programs as 
the College Board's Advanced Placement Program, Talent Search, and the 
National Merit Scholarship Program were enthusiastically embraced by both 
secondary and college level educators, and those and other similar 
programs contributed to a comparatively high quality of secondary 
education throughout the 1960*s. 

But the cooperative relationships that existed between the two 
sectors in earlier years gave way to some new campus pressures in tne mid 
1960's, Each year for several years, the number of 18 year-olds 
increased between 20% and 30% while the percent of students seeking 
college admission also increased. 

"PERMISSION TO REPRODUCE THIS 
MATERIAL HAS BEEN GRANTED «Y 

CLg 

TO THE EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES 
INFORMATION CENTER (ERIC)." 



U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION 
NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF EDUCATION 

EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES INFORMATION 

CENTER (EflJCl 
^Jnis tiotuim-'ii hjs b«*n repioo'uced as 
received from -.rn? iMvm or organization 
originating it 

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position or policy. 



page 2 

The national response to the rapidly expanding enrollments was to 
create new institutions and to provide for more students at existing 
ones. This reckless expansion of the capacity of higher education was 
occurring even though birth rates were declining precipitously. It 
seemed that few educators were worried about, or even interested in the 
future consequences of this expansion! 

Because colleges had all of the well-qualified applicants they 
needed, campus energies and priorities shifted from high school/college 
articulation matters to some frustrating internal problems, primarily 
student activism. Also, students were becoming upset with the larger 
classes and more impersonalizat ion that resulted from the enrollment 
increases. The students were becoming restless and impatient. 

By the early 1970's, campus activists had gained a strong influence 
on some crucial decision making mechanisms and while some favorable 
changes resulted, primarily in the diversification of student 
populations, the college curriculum took, a terrible beating. "Relevancy" 
became the campus buzz word. Mathematics, science, and foreign language 
courses were perceived as irrelevant by a few influential students on 
some campuses and were particularly vulnerable to the demands for 
change. Pass/faii, or, pass/no record grading replaced more traditional 
forms of student evaluation. 

During this period, however, admission standards remained generally 
high. Not a few freshmen complained that their high school coursework 
had been more challenging than their college courses. The integrity of 
q the college degree was being questioned. q 

ERIC J 



page 3 

As higher education entered a somewhat more stable period in the mid 
X 9 ; 0 ' s , high schools began adjusting to a "flexible" and less demanding 
curriculum that had characterized college curriculum* during the early 
years of the decade, At least one high school offered 44 courses for 
which English credit could be earned. If a student was unable to write 
he could satisfy his English requirement by electing mass media, bible 
literature, argumentation, or some other such course. Grade inflation 
wail increasing in high school and students were electing fewer solid 
courses. And, during this period SAT and ACT scores were dramatically 
declining . 

Certaioly this new flexibility was not evident in All schools and at 
least some students in most schools were well prepared for college. The 
Advanced Placement Program continued to flourish and the International 
Buccaluareate was gaining recognition during the 1970's. But an alarming 
number of students completed high school and entered college with serious 
academic deficiencies. 

Meanwhile, back at the college, there was a beginning of a swing back 
to higher standards and expectations. As national attention focused on 
declining test scores,, college professors wanted to avoid the stigma of 
being amoug those who contributed to the problem of lower education 
standards. Even thouigh students were enrolling with weaker preparation 
from high schools, college instructors maintained, or increased their 
expectations of those students. Further, while college academic 
expectations were being raised, admission threshholds at many 



ERIC 



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pag»e 4 

institutions were lowered. Admissions personnel were under pressure to 
keep enrollments up. The results were predictable . Many students found 
themselves insufficiently prepared for rigorous college work. The 
college and high school pendulums were out of synchronisation. In the 
early 1970*8 high' school graduates were well prepared for a less than 
challenging college experience while in the late 1970V and today, 
college academic demands are frequently too severe for the quality of 
students who are admitted. 

I would like to conclude my remarks with a brief editorial. I am 
bothered by the popular thought that the way to improve the quality of 
education is to lay down state wide high school graduation requirements* 
I feel that 'chey will do little if anything to improve the quality of 
education . 

Rather, we should follow the historical pattern that has served this 
Republic very well and encourage local initiatives that are guided by 
flexible models, visible incentives, and standardized displays of results 
so that students and educators are motivated to exceed rather than merely 
conform to any minimum standard.. For example, we might create a l5 tandard 
hi^h school honors formula where students who satisfy certain 
requirements are given special recognition for fcheir achievements. That 
formula might include grade point average and HSPR, SAT/ACT scores, 
completion of a core curriculum, including enriched courses, and a school 
quality index based on assessment results. Admissions and scholarship 
priorities could be awarded to those special peopX* who achieve the 



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page 5 

honors standard. Further, school boards should include on their agendas 
at least once each year a discussion of such nationally recognized 
programs of educational quality as the College Board's Advanced Placement 
Program and the International Baccalaureate. We have invested heavily in 
area vocational/technical centers, but how many area academic centers 
have we created. Also, at least one institution in each state should be 
freed from state mandated admissions requirements and employ "flexible 
admissions'* to attract the most promising students available. 

It is not undemocratic to bring our brightest and best prepared young 
people together in a rich and rigorous academic environment where their 
intellectual curiosities can be satisfied.