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Perspectives May 6, 2004

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CSU's new admissions policy on the right track

The proposed changes to Cleveland State University’s admission policy cannot be labeled as sweeping.

The new policies currently under review by the CSU Board of Trustees will not turn the university into an elite institution for the super-smart and ultra-gifted. What the new policy will do is help current and future students who make this campus their academic homes reach their own potentials and come away from CSU not only better educated, but also with a degree that will mean more to employers.

That degree will be the culmination of years of hard work and dedication to making sure outside distractions did not interfere with getting to class and hitting the books. That single piece of paper will represent the countless papers, essays, tests and reports handed in to professors over a college career.

To employers, however, a CSU degree, while a legitimate college diploma, undeniably carries that negative image many people have about this university.

Maybe calling CSU’s image negative is a little harsh, but when some Clevelanders call a supposed institution of higher learning, “Northeast Ohio’s four-year community college,” not too many other words seem to fit.

According to the presentation by the Faculty Senate on the proposed undergraduate admissions standards, more than 36 percent of the 946 total freshmen enrolled for CSU’s 2002 fall semester would have faced conditions and restrictions based on the new guidelines that could go into effect within the next few years.

According to that same report, of that group of 36 percent, only 7.4 percent earned enough credits to be considered sophomores after their first year and only 15.8 percent were on track to graduate in four to six years. Compare that pair of numbers to the other 64 percent of freshman that would have been admitted in the fall of 2002 without conditions. Those students moved onto sophomore status at a rate of 26.8 percent, while staying on track for graduation in four to six years at a rate of 56.8 percent. That group also maintained a grade point average of 2.84 versus the 2.3 maintained by the 36 percent of students who would have been conditional admits.

What all those numbers point to is a need to streamline admissions and keep such a large number of students from becoming academic casualties overwhelmed by the college experience, or unmotivated or unprepared after high school.

Cleveland State does not need to shed its reputation as a place where anyone can receive an education. CSU needs to lose the reputation as a place where anyone can come and fail at receiving an education.

That failure gives a black eye to the university, and a deserved one at that. It is well within the control of the administration to take control over who is admitted, and more importantly how those students are admitted. What good does it do an unprepared student to be allowed to take a full load of classes, only to stumble under the weight, while that person may have benefited from less work, more attention and a chance to get used to college? That happens too often under the current system. Certainly a healthy portion of the blame should end up on the shoulders of high schools as well as the universities that are the sites of so many cataclysmic academic failures.

Fortunately, it looks like Cleveland State has at least begun fixing the problem on its end with the proposed admissions policy changes. If high schools can also begin churning out more students ready to face a four-year university, maybe higher education in Ohio will become something lawmakers will finally feel comfortable throwing their support and dollars behind.

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