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Editorial: Regents should implement application reform

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | SEPTEMBER 04, 2014 5:00 AM

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The state Board of Regents has made a host of changes in its oversight of the three regent universities in recent years, including approving a freeze for in-state tuition, cutting costs to make operations more efficient, and adopting performance-based funding. Now, the regents are pondering reforms to the universities’ admission process.

As a part of the regents’ efficiency study, Deloitte Consulting found the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa calculate admission scores differently when the applicants do not have high school class ranks. The firm will recommend that the regents find a common formula for such students and also create a portal for to apply to all three universities simultaneously.

The lack of a class rank is a significant problem during the application process. Deloitte found nearly 32 percent of fall 2013 freshmen entering the UI, ISU, and UNI, and 40 percent of the total applicants didn’t have a class rank.

While creating a common online application process could be costly (an estimated $500,000), the long-term reward in bringing in new students would be worth the price. Applicants would still pay the $40 fee to apply to each school, but with a simplified process in applying to all three, the number of cross-applicants would likely rise.

It makes sense as a matter of fairness as well. Under the current system, an applicant may qualify for acceptance at several universities, but because of variance in the way the Regent Admission Index is calculated could be turned away from one or another.

Currently, the index is calculated based on the student’s ACT or SAT scores, cumulative GPA, and the number of completed high school core courses and class rank.

Under the new regent’s funding model approved in June, 60 percent of the universities’ funding is based on the enrollment of in-state students. More students at the UI are from out of the state than at the other two universities, so this admission process change is perhaps even more important at the UI. Many of the Iowa’s high schools are choosing to abandon class ranks, so bringing more of these students to the UI can help it secure much-needed regent funding.

The regents will review Deloitte’s recommendations on Sept. 10, and they could potentially be implemented following their meeting.

On a broader note, the Daily Iowan Editorial Board applauds the regents’ effort to improve efficiency among the universities. In a time in which education funding is being cut across the board, any and all efforts to reduce wasteful spending should be appreciated. The regents have promised to reinvest the money saved through this initiative back into the universities, and they have a good opportunity to do so here. While Deloitte’s recommendation to add an application portal and reform the process comes with a cost, we believe this is offset not only by the potential increase in funding because of a rise in the number of in-state students and application fees from cross-applicants, but also in fairness when class ranking is no longer taken into account.


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