Raising the bar?

Published 12:57 am Friday, May 11, 2007

By Staff
The University of North Carolina system is considering a move that would require a high-school graduate to have at least a C grade-point average to be eligible to attend one of the state’s public universities.
An account of the proposal in the Raleigh News and Observer equates the idea to “raising the bar,” which begs the question: Just how low is the bar in the first place? The intention to see that a student can achieve at least a 2.0 on a scale that goes to 4.0 is one that should have already been implemented.
Instead, the requirement threshold for attending any UNC system school is based on a minimum number of specific courses that a student must complete. For example, a student may have to finish at least four units of English and four units of math, according to the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.
But a C average, thus far, isn’t mandatory for first-time college students heading into state-supported schools. The C standard currently applies only to students who are transferring from other colleges.
But to expect less than C averages from North Carolina high-school students who are headed to our public universities is to do them a disservice.
Bowles and the UNC Board of Governors support the idea of increasing the standards for incoming students. Upping the GPA requirement is of particular interest to them because data gathered by the UNC system shows that a GPA, instead of an SAT score, is a better yardstick for measuring a student’s success, the Raleigh newspaper reported.
So, system leaders are studying admission requirements in Mississippi and Louisiana. In Mississippi, an incoming freshman must have a 3.2 grade-point average in college-prep classes, but class rank and test scores are also weighed, according to the Pope Center.
UNC system leaders are looking to change North Carolina’s admissions requirements in hopes of addressing retention and/or graduation rates at state universities. They hope to particularly impact the nine institutions that graduate less than half the number of students those schools enroll.
Some system officials worry the changes could especially impact minority students or historically black universities. Thus, UNC leaders must be ready with the necessary safety net — and funding — to ensure those students and schools get any assistance they need.
They also suggest that the changes may result in some students completing the first couple of years of their college educations at community colleges. That’s not a bad thing.
The ultimate goal should be to have educated students and a ready work force for our state. Expecting more of our students is not a negative. It’s an opportunity for them to shine.