NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Applications Surge At Public Colleges

April 20, 1999

Across the nation, applicants to public colleges and universities are finding that high grades aren't a guarantee they will be admitted.

  • Hundreds of Washington, D.C., area high school seniors with grade point averages of 3.5 or better who applied to the University of Maryland were rejected for fall classes.
  • Many applicants to the University of Virginia who had Scholastic Aptitude Test scores of 1,400 out of a possible 1,600, and some who were second in their class, were turned down.
  • At the University of California's Berkeley and Los Angeles campuses, thousands of students with 4.0 GPAs were denied admission.
  • The number of four-year public institutions who only accept freshmen in the top 25 percent of their class has jumped by 49 percent in the past dozen years, according to data from analyst Thomas G. Mortenson.

Public colleges -- which enroll 80 percent of undergraduates -- have long been viewed as having a place for everyone. Now, students who don't get into their state's flagship schools often wind up in lesser public colleges and universities.

Applications have surged, creating a shortage of entry slots. The surge is being attributed by some observers to relatively low costs, improved honors programs and a population boom among high school graduates in many states.

Source: Valerie Strauss, "When Good Students Aren't Good Enough," Washington Post, April 18, 1999.


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