Admission Criteria Proposal

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Cal State LA serves as a model of access and attainment—the success and graduation of our diverse student body remains our number one priority.  Our success as an engine of social mobility was recently confirmed in a study by The Equality of Opportunity Project that ranked Cal State LA number one in the U.S. for the upward mobility of its students.  Our goal now is to improve on this by ensuring that our admission criteria align with our commitment to provide access and a timely graduation for students.  After many campus conversations over the past semester, we have created the following plan revising our admissions’ criteria for Fall 18.  This was driven both by unprecedented growth in applications and an even more pressing need to align our admissions’ criteria with success in the major. Too many of our transfer students arrive having completed few, if any, of the needed lower division prerequisite coursework in our majors.  Transfer students who arrive with key lower-division prerequisites already completed are more likely to succeed in their chosen majors and earn their degrees in a more timely fashion. 

This proposal outlines our challenges and our plans for remedying them. The proposal was drafted in consultation with deans and associate deans, the Senate Executive Committee, the Educational Policy Committee, department chairs, and many others across the university.   We are now continuing our consultation before submission of the final plan in March to the Chancellor’s Office.  This consultation includes the opportunity for interested parties to attend public hearings to learn more about the proposal and ask questions.  Comments are welcome and can be submitted orally at the hearings or by completing the comment form below.  Comments must be submitted by February 24 to allow time for review. 

We believe this plan will contribute to Cal State LA’s commitment to providing a quality education to the diverse communities that we serve and increasing graduates.  We look forward to hearing your thoughts on how we can improve this plan.

Warmest regards,

Lynn Mahoney's signature
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Context

Cal State LA has controlled for admission of non-local Freshmen and Transfer students since Fall 2010 and a growing number of majors already have major-specific admissions criteria:

  • Biology (effective Fall 2014)
  • Business Administration (Accounting) (effective Fall 2014)
  • Business Administration (Management) (effective Fall 2014)
  • Business Administration (Marketing Management) (effective Fall 2014)
  • Criminal Justice
  • Nursing
  • Psychology
  • Social Work

Consistent with CSU policy, we do not accept lower division transfers, second baccalaureates except for Nursing, or Post-bac undeclared students.

The demand for a CSU education especially in the LA metro area is very evident by our incredible application growth, as reflected in the following chart.  Preliminary numbers for Fall 2017 show this trend continuing.  While system-wide domestic undergraduate duplicated applications are flat, Cal State LA experienced a 6% increase in freshmen and a 5% increase in transfers.

Fall Undergraduate Applicants

 

Graph showing Fall undergard applicants form Fall 2011 until Fall 2016

Cal State LA has a long history of commitment to access, the local community, and social upward mobility.  Under President Covino’s leadership, the campus has recently assisted the region and the CSU by welcoming additional CSU eligible students despite inadequate state funding.  Even with the use of existing controls on admission, the campus has experienced unprecedented growth.

 

Fall Undergraduate New Enrollment (Headcount)

 

Graph showing Fall Undergrad new enrollment headcount

 

Fall Enrollment Trend (Headcount)

Graph showing fall enrollment numbers from Fall 2011 to Fall 2016

The tremendous growth in applications and our ability to control largely for only non-local admissions results in admissions denials  to students who are very prepared for success as transfer students. We deny admissions to students who have completed often difficult pre-requisite coursework at the community college, while admitting transfer students who focused on general CSU eligible criteria to gain admission and avoided completing lower-division courses required in the major at the Community College.  Not only does this delay the graduation of transfer students, it also contributes to lower-division bottlenecks for native students and delays their graduation as well.

A compelling example of this situation is found in our College of Engineering, Computer Science and Technology (ECST).  Enrollment has doubled over the last five years.  This is a great success, especially considering the state need for diverse engineers.  But to serve the students and the state, we must graduate students in a timely manner.  Unfortunately, only 12% of Fall 11 transfers have attained degrees after 5 years at Cal State LA despite entering with at least 60 units. This result is not surprising given the high percent of new transfers who did not complete required lower division courses prior to admission to Cal State LA.   

ECST Fall 2015 Transfer Student Preparation

  • Math Completion
    • 49.5% needed to take one or more Calculus courses
    • 20.1% transfer students hadn’t completed any Calculus
  • Physics Completion
    • 75.1% needed to take one or more Physics courses
    • 24.9% transfer students hadn’t taken any Physics

These upper division transfer students are competing for seats in key lower-division prerequisite classes with native students.  Even if they are successful in these courses, degree completion is severely delayed.  If not successful in these key lower division courses, they must explore other majors as a senior!

Our enrollment challenges combined with our commitment to graduate our diverse student body compels us to evolve our admissions to a student-centered, student-preparation solution.  We will focus on transfer students emphasizing lower-division major preparation – not selectivity. We will focus on requiring transfer students to complete the key lower-division courses needed to make progress-toward-degree and graduate.  This approach will also promote clear pathways for native freshmen and reduce lower-division course bottlenecks.  We will continue our strong commitment to our local community by providing a clear local guarantee based on preparation criteria (except in severely constrained programs like Nursing, as we already do).  We will create tools that allow us to strategically control admission to facilitate student success.

Consultation

Over the past year, the campus engaged in an extensive, highly inclusive process to develop a new strategic plan.   The goals of the plan framed our conversations about admission and enrollment.  We especially reflected on many of the values contained in our plan:

  • Students first
  • Local commitment
  • Academic success and rigor
  • Greater good
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Transparent, collaborative decision making
  • Graduation 2025 goals

We were very inclusive in our discussions about admissions and enrollment. The following outlines the key steps in the creation of our Admissions Proposal:

  • A half-day workshop was held for Deans and Associate Deans to explore our enrollment history and challenges, CSU policy guidelines, and other campus models.
  • An initial proposal was developed with additional input from the Deans.
  • The proposal was reviewed and feedback sought in the following in-person meetings:
    • President’s Cabinet
    • Senate Executive Committee
    • Educational Policy Committee
    • Leadership meetings in each college (Dean, Associate Deans, Department Chairs, Director of Advising and Student Success)
  • Key concepts of the transfer model were reviewed at the Cal State LA counselor conference in a dedicated session for Community College participants.

Broad support was received for a student-centered approach to admissions that emphasizes student-preparation.  Based on the presentations and support of the overall concepts, colleges recommended additional programs for major-specific admissions consideration to the Provost.  The Provost and Vice Provosts reviewed these requests in light of our overall student success and graduation initiative plans.

Admissions Proposal: Focusing on Transfer Preparation

Cal State LA remains deeply committed to providing the same level of access for local freshmen and will continue to control for non-local freshmen admissions. Our proposal focuses on controlling admissions at the transfer level for all existing programs with major-specific admissions criteria (listed above) and select additional majors (listed below).  High schools and colleges currently receiving ‘local preference’ will continue to receive that preference. In support of our commitment to serve our Veterans, we propose that they also receive ‘local preference’ regardless of schools attended.  This Veterans category will include active-duty, reservists and National Guard. 

We propose that the following programs also have major-specific admissions criteria beginning with the Fall 2018 admission cycle:

  • Chemistry (including Biochemistry)
  • Business Administration (all options which do not currently have major-specific requirements)
  • Economics
  • Computer Information Systems
  • Kinesiology/Nutrition
  • Public Health
  • Communication Disorders
  • Child Development
  • Urban Learning - ITEP option
  • Rehabilitation Services
  • Communications
  • Television, Film and Media Studies
  • Civil Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Fire Protection Administration (will be designated a completion program only by Transfer

Again, our proposal is focused on transfer student preparation. Our new approach to transfer admissions emphasizes preparation that predicts success in the major and promotes timely degree completion while granting high priority consideration for our local students and Veterans.

Under our approach, consistent criteria templates will be developed for all majors requiring major specific criteria.  These majors will have a version for transfer and native students emphasizing preparation. The criteria will be reviewed annually and published on the Cal State LA website in June articulating the criteria for the upcoming Fall admission cycle (published June 2017 for Fall 2018 admission).  For Fall term admission, coursework and unit minimums must be completed no later than the prior Spring term. For Spring term admission, coursework and unit minimums must be completed no later than the prior Summer term.

Criteria Template for Major Specific Requirements for Transfer Students

To be considered for admission to the major, applicants must demonstrate the following:

          Minimum Cumulative GPA:  X.X

Minimum lower division preparation (grade of C or better required):

  • Major preparation courses:
    • Course 1
    • Course 2
  • Required General Education courses not covered by major preparation courses:
    • Written Communication
    • Oral Communication

Additional recommended preparation for transfer students (grade of C or better required):

  • Course 1
  • Course 2

In the ‘parallel’ template for native students, all courses required of transfers must be required of native students.  Courses that were recommended for transfers or additional course requirements that are not widely articulated may be included as required for native students to promote timely progress. The GPA requirement for native students will be the same as the ‘local guarantee’ GPA for local transfer applicants.

Criteria Template for Major Specific Requirements for Native Students

To be considered for admission to the major, applicants must demonstrate the following:

          Minimum Cumulative GPA: X.X

Minimum lower division preparation (grade of C or better required):

  • Major preparation courses:
    • Course 1
    • Course 2
  • Required General Education courses not covered by major preparation courses:
    • Written Communication
    • Oral Communication

Admission Consideration for Transfers Applying to Majors with Major Specific Criteria

  • Transfer students must declare a specific major on the application and may not be considered Undeclared.  Local applicants may also list an alternate major which does not require major specific admission requirements for consideration.
  • Transfer applicants must meet minimum CSU Upper Division Transfer eligibility requirements to be considered. Admission determination is then based on major specific criteria as outlined in the criteria template including lower-division major preparation, General Education Courses, and minimum GPA.
  • Except for Nursing, CSU eligible applicants who are considered "local" based on their community college or their military veteran status will be offered admission if they meet the major specific minimum cumulative GPA and required lower division preparation.
  • Non-local CSU eligible applicants who have met the major specific minimum cumulative GPA and the minimum required lower division preparation will be admitted on a space-available basis based on their cumulative GPA and any additional preparation courses specified in the criteria.
  • If space is available after all students meeting the minimum major GPA and preparation have been accommodated, then CSU eligible students without the minimum major preparation will be considered based on a ranking of the criteria completed.
  • Students admitted to the major who have not completed the additional recommended transfer requirements must complete them in their first year at Cal State LA.
  • Transfer AA/AS degree recipients: The Transfer AA/AS degree curriculum is used in lieu of the specific course requirements listed in the criteria template, as well as any additional recommended preparation. Under current CSU guidelines, the cumulative GPA will be increased by 0.1 and this ‘calculated GPA’ will be applied to the major specific minimum GPA and to any GPA used in the ranking of applicants.

Admission Consideration for Native Students Applying to Majors with Major Specific Criteria

  • Students interested in pursuing majors with major specific criteria must meet the specified criteria in order to ‘declare the major.' Qualified freshmen will begin as pre-majors and then declare the major when they complete the major specific criteria. Pre-majors will be expected to meet these major specific criteria.
  • Major specific criteria provide a clear path to entrance to the major as well as degree completion.
  • Criteria also serve as an early alert for students who may need to explore other major options.
  • Except for Nursing, native Cal State LA students may ‘declare a major’ if they meet the major specific minimum cumulative GPA and required lower division preparation and are on-track for timely graduation (current policy requires completion within 120% of degree units – 144 for 120 unit degrees).

Admission Consideration for Freshmen Applying to Majors with Major Specific Criteria

  • As currently required, all Freshmen applicants will submit SAT or ACT scores to be considered for admission.  Freshmen applicants will be considered for admission to the ‘pre-major’ and then declare the major if and when they complete the major specific criteria.   In majors with major-specific admissions requirements, the university may specify minimum criteria for entrance to the pre-major based on High School college-preparatory GPA, an index combining HS GPA and SAT or ACT scores, or additional high school preparatory coursework that will predict success and timely progress in the major.  Applicants who are considered ‘local’ based on their high school of graduation or military status who meet the CSU minimum eligibility requirements but are not admissible to the pre-major will be offered admission as an ‘undeclared’ student. Undeclared students will explore other appropriate majors through coursework and advising.

Admission Consideration for Transfers Applying to Majors without Major-Specific Admissions Requirements

  • Transfer students must declare a specific major on the application and may not be considered Undeclared.  Applicants who are considered ‘local’ based on their community college or military status who meet the CSU minimum eligibility requirements will be offered admission.  Other applicants, including local transfer applicants who were not offered admission to a major with major-specific admissions requirements but listed an alternate major without major-specific degree requirements, will be ranked based on transfer GPA and offered admission based on space available in the College or Department. Under current CSU guidelines, Transfer AA/AS degree candidate’s cumulative GPA will be increased by 0.1 and this ‘calculated GPA’ will be used in this ranking.

Admission Consideration for Freshmen Applying to Majors without Major-Specific Admissions Requirements

  • All Freshmen applicants will be required to submit SAT or ACT scores to be considered for admission.  Freshmen applicants may apply as Undeclared which will be treated as a major without major-specific degree requirements.  Applicants who are considered ‘local’ based on their high school of graduation or military status who meet the CSU minimum eligibility requirements will be offered admission to that major.  Other applicants will be ranked based on the CSU Eligibility Index and offered admission based on space available in the College or Department.
  • A limited number of EOP freshmen applicants not otherwise offered admission will be admitted to majors without major-specific degree requirements based on a holistic admission review including community involvement/leadership, overcoming significant hardship, and potential for degree completion.

Local Area

Cal State LA is not proposing changes to the schools that receive Local Preference. Review map of the local geographic area and the list of community colleges with local preference.

Public Hearings

A presentation on the key features of our admission criteria proposal and an opportunity for questions and comments will occur:

Date:               February 20, 2017
Time:               6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Location:        California State LA
                       Golden Eagle Ballroom 1

Date:               February 21, 2017
Time:              11:30 am – 1:00 pm
Location:        East Los Angeles College
                      Recital Hall, Building S2, Room 132

Date:               February 22, 2017
Time:              10:00 am – 11:30 am
Location:        Pasadena City College
                       Westerbeck Recital Hall, Center for the Arts, Room 140

Public Comment Response

Cal State LA's admission proposal afforded me the opportunity to meet with colleagues and students at several of our partner community colleges, as well as with many of our own students, faculty, and staff. As always, I was deeply struck by the passion with which all are committed to the students of Los Angeles. Faculty, academic advisors, transfer counselors, and administrators all demonstrated tremendous commitment to student success, to access, and to degree attainment. 

Having heard from dozens of people, it is clear that there is consistent support for facilitating transfer student success by requiring some lower-division course preparation for admission. Transfer students who arrive with key lower-division prerequisites already completed are more likely to succeed in their chosen majors and earn their degrees in a more timely fashion--allowing them to complete their degrees within federal financial aid rules and embark on careers and graduate study. We repeatedly heard praise for the general approach.

We also heard concerns about various aspects of the implementation.  We have noted the concerns as well as the suggestions provided.  Rest assured, we are committed to working on these and providing opportunity for ongoing dialogue as the plan moves forward.  One of the main concerns expressed was the need to select the required courses collaboratively and carefully. As we assured audiences at the hearings, the course criteria for transfer students will only include articulated and regularly offered courses. In programs with a Transfer Model Curriculum, we will use courses that count toward the Associates Degree for Transfer.   We also emphasized that the Transfer AA/AS degree curriculum will be used in lieu of our specific course requirements for students on-track to complete the degree within the required timeframe.

We are currently working with Cal State LA faculty to identify reasonable and appropriate courses and will ensure that these undergo rigorous review. We will also consider a phased-in approach for some programs that allows current local transfer students to plan a year ahead for required courses. In these instances, some courses may begin as ‘recommended’ with a clear indication of when they will become ‘required.’  We have all agreed that a student-centered approach to implementation is the only approach.

I would like to offer a very sincere thank you to those who took the time to read the proposal, attend a hearing, or provide feedback via the web. The success of our students rests on the success of our community—your commitment is crucial.

Thank you,

Lynn Mahoney
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs