BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s top higher education board on Thursday postponed decision-making on a strengthening of its minimum admission standards for public colleges that would include new financial penalties for campuses that violate the policy.
Commissioner of Higher Education Kim Hunter Reed and her staff spent months working on proposed changes to existing admissions standards first put in place 14 years ago. That wholesale review came after LSU sparked criticism for disobeying the requirements and granting more exceptions than allowed.
But the Board of Regents, the state’s policy-making board for public colleges, balked Thursday at making the changes recommended by Reed and her staff. They stalled a vote until February.
Regents members said they wanted more time to answer questions from the higher education community and more details about certain proposed changes.
“It is a very important policy we’re dealing with,” said board member Claudia Adley of Bossier City, who led the push to delay the vote. “In the last few days, a lot of questions have emerged.”
Board member Wilbert Pryor of Shreveport said he wanted to hear from the presidents of Louisiana’s public university systems. Board member Randy Ewing of Ruston said he wanted to get more familiarized with how the changes would impact the autonomy of campus leaders.
“If the board feels they do not have the information that they need to make a decision, then the shortcoming is on me,” Reed said. “I want to make sure you are comfortable.”
The Regents divvy up most of the state financing for public college campuses through their funding formula, but the board has never penalized schools for non-compliance with admissions criteria. The new proposal would specifically allow for cuts to financing to campuses that repeatedly breach the exceptions limit.
Other proposed changes would include new exceptions for non-resident students and detailed auditing and reporting procedures.
The Board of Regents first started requiring admissions standards for Louisiana’s public four-year universities in 2005. Reed described the standards as helping to ensure students enroll “where we believe they can be most successful.”
The renewed debate over the standards stems from LSU’s decision to rework its own admissions approach for first-time students, starting with the fall 2018 semester. The university’s main campus in Baton Rouge lessened reliance on standardized test scores and grade point averages, arguing that followed the approach at 80% of the nation’s flagship universities.
But the move breached the number of exceptions allowed.
Under the Regents’ requirements, LSU’s incoming freshmen must have a 3.0 high school GPA or a 25 ACT college entrance exam score, with up to 4% of the enrolling class allowed exceptions. Other Louisiana colleges have lower admissions standards and larger percentages of allowed exceptions.
LSU’s changes weren’t initially announced and drew criticism as diminishing standards. Amid the pushback, then-LSU President F. King Alexander questioned the Regents’ authority to penalize his school for violating the admissions standards. Reed disagreed, citing the board’s constitutional authority. Alexander’s comments also drew rebuke from Gov. John Bel Edwards.
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