Letter to the Editor

BY DI READERS | JULY 31, 2014 5:00 AM

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Regents’ executive director clarifies Regent Admission Index

On June 15, the Cedar Rapids Gazette published a guest opinion from Len Hadley, a member of the Board of Regents Performance-Based Funding Task Force. In his piece, Hadley addressed the Regents Admission Index, a calculation used by prospective students at Iowa’s public universities to prepare for and predict successful admission to Iowa’s public universities.

Hadley explained that university admissions offices grant exceptions to the admission policy. He then compared the universities’ admission rates for students with scores below the required index score of 245. He reported that ISU and UNI admit many more students with scores below 245 than does the University of Iowa, suggesting that the UI admits higher-caliber students than the other two schools. However, this is not an appropriate comparison, because the index numbers are not calculated in the same manner at each university.

The explanation for the difference in the universities’ practices lies with the high-school rank of prospective students, one of the components of the index calculation. Since the index was established, a number of large high schools in the state no longer provide a high-school ranks for their students. To compensate for this measure for these students, the state’s two research universities — the UI and ISU — approach the issue in much different ways.

The UI conducts individual student reviews to determine admissibility and does not calculate an admissions index for all of its applicants. As former UI Associate Provost Beth Ingram indicated in an email, “these students are excluded from the [admissions-index] count.”

On the other hand, ISU applies a statistical formula to calculate an RAI for all applicants. The sophisticated statistical methodology used by ISU effectively ensures that all students are included in the index count. The ISU model has been refined over time to ensure it works well as a predictor of success, and it provides, in my opinion, the most objective method of determining student admissibility.

As stated in the Regents’ Strategic Plan, the regent universities transform lives by providing effective and quality public education for the citizens of Iowa. The No. 1 priority for the regents is to provide access, affordability, and student success for Iowa residents. To that end, the Board Office monitors not only student enrollment, but equally important, the retention and graduation of all undergraduate students.

For example, the one-year retention rates of Iowa undergraduate students in ISU’s last two freshman classes were slightly higher than at the UI. This one-year retention rate is a strong indicator of persistence to graduation. Similarly, the six-year graduation rates of ISU resident undergraduate students are also slightly higher than at the UI. However, overall, the six-year graduation rates for the three regent universities are 68.4percent, compared with the national average of 48.9percent for all public four-year colleges.

In conclusion, while it may appear, as noted by Hadley, that ISU admits more students with an index below 245 than does the UI, it is impossible for the UI to determine actual index admissions as it does not calculate a formula for all of its students, as does ISU.

It is obvious that an evaluation of this practice needs to occur. Therefore, in the coming year, the Regents’ Office will conduct an assessment of the sustainability of the current process.

Robert Donley
Board of Regents executive director

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