This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Grant discusses admissions and retention policies with FSEC

Published: October 28, 2004

Contributing Editor

Should UB admit students it later cannot provide a spot for in their majors of choice?

Yes, according to Kerry S. Grant, interim vice provost and dean of undergraduate education, who told the Faculty Senate Executive Committee yesterday that such students usually choose to take their chances at UB when informed of that fact.

During a report on admissions and retention at UB, Grant told the FSEC that the demand for certain majors increases along with job market trends and needs, and thus, UB and other universities aren't able to accommodate all of the students seeking admission to those majors.

"Right now, there's heavy pressure on pharmacy. All the students here who wish to go into pharmacy will not be able to be admitted," Grant said. "We anticipate another hundred students next year who will be here seeking to get into pharmacy. So we're faced with a quandary: Do you admit students who want to do a program that you know you cannot admit them to when the time comes? The answer from the students is unequivocal. When you tell them that you realize one in four of you is going to get into this program, they say 'Fine. Let me in to compete for it.'"

Rather than being a form of academic bait-and-switch, Grant continued, admitting these students does not cheat them out of their chosen careers.

"The truth in the telling is that the vast majority of those students, an astonishing majority, do not leave UB, whether or not they get into their major that they are seeking to get into. They move to another major and graduate from UB," he said. "So we're not seeing students leaving in frustration and going off somewhere else. They're making other career choices, often closely related, and staying in the UB system."

The problems that do arise when a particular field becomes popular have more to do with class schedules and seat availability, he added.

"In general, if the students register in a timely way and they are staying with their program and working with advisers, it is not difficult at all to move through the curriculum in any one of our degree programs. We have yet to hit that figurative wall," Grant said. "We have hit the convenience wall, if I can call it that, which is a student saying 'I want to take it when I want to take it and I don't want to be on campus after 4 (p.m.)."

The quality of applicants to UB has improved greatly in recent years, Grant told the committee, especially this year's freshman class, the "strongest" in terms of median SAT scores.

Nina Karrs, senior assistant vice provost for undergraduate education, accompanied Grant to the meeting and confirmed that UB is receiving more and better-quality applications.

Whereas in the past, UB "kept the admission doors open through the summer and the advising side of the house was extremely frustrated because the first week of classes had students just being admitted," now the admissions office is able to use May 1 as a cut-off date for the coming year's numbers, Karrs said.

"So they have truly closed the door and they are able to select higher and higher levels of students," she said, adding that the university also has returned to 2.5 its GPA requirements for transfer students. "This is really good news that UB can select from higher and higher SAT scores, higher and higher high school averages and higher and higher transfer credentials."

But there is still much work to be done, Grant said, noting that President John B. Simpson dedicated "virtually the last half of his speech" at his investiture ceremony to the issue of access to the university.

"That's not yet been defined for us as a particular target or approach within the university by the president, but given the emphasis that he put on it, I'm sure that we will be asked to look anew at what our efforts are and how successful they are," Grant said.

When asked by committee members how UB will know it has succeeded in becoming a more competitive and more diverse university, Grant offered only his personal opinion.

"If you were to ask me how to measure success, it would be (getting to the point) that this doesn't seem to be an extraordinary thing for students in the community to think about coming to UB, that they understand it as a place they can attend. That's where we have so much work to do because there's not an understanding that it's easy to come to the university and there is a welcoming atmosphere here. If we establish that, I think we'll have come a long way."

UB, Grant said, must continue to pursue an increase in the number of applications from area minority students "through our special admissions programs, which we are dedicated to by way of social mission of the institution, by way of pressing needs of our society and by an unflinching commitment at UB to continue the effort to diversify the student body as a step toward diversifying and building a professorial staff that is representative of our society."

Efforts to open wider the doors to UB come with an increase in the university's responsibility to the students it accepts, he added.

"One of the realities of admitting populations of students who show every promise of being successful in university life is that they need bridge support," Grant said. UB has "taken a number of steps in cooperation with the community to see what we can do to open the portals of the university to local minority students," Grant said, including meeting with area ministers to learn about the young people in their congregations. "One of the strong issues that has been impressed upon us is that you must get minority high school students onto campus earlier, to become familiar with the campus, so it's not a strange place, it's not a hostile place; they're used to coming out and having good experiences here and meeting other students—both other incoming freshman students but also students who are well established at the university—so the campus doesn't seem like such a remote place and such a remote possibility for them," he said.

Grant urged the FSEC to join him in efforts to improve UB's knowledge and approaches to improving diversity.

"All of this we would say would be in vain if we didn't realize in this process that these students must become fully competitive university students and graduate with all that we expect that our students will take away from this institution, and that they will have support for their careers," he said. "In the process, we quite certainly hope to advance our society, as well as make the contributions to our own campuses that we get through a diverse student population."