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Dietz Cautions Against Requiring GPA-based Admission

Larry Dietz at news conference
Lyndsie Schlink
Illinois State University

The president of Illinois State University said a proposal in Springfield requiring public universities to admit first-time freshman applicants who finish with a high grade point average could have unintended consequences.

The bill, which cleared a house committee last week, would require schools admit students who scored in the top 10 percent of their high school's graduating class. During Sound Ideas, Larry Dietz said there are too many variables at play when admitting students.

"There's a variety and a great disparity in performance levels at high schools across the state of Illinois. So the idea that you've done well at a GPA at one high school may not, and probably won't, mean the same thing for a student that may have graduated from another high school," Dietz said.

The bill's sponsor said he's concerned about the lack of diversity at the University of Illinois. Dietz said diversity in admissions on the ISU campus isn't an issue.

"For the last three years, we've had the most diverse freshman class in 25 years. Nearly 22 percent of our overall population now are from underrepresented groups, and we had about a nine percent increase in African-American students last year in our freshman class and about an eight percent latino/latina student ratio. We feel like we're doing well with diversity issues from a student recruitment perspective," Dietz said.

Both the University of Illinois and the Illinois Board of Higher Education are also on record in opposition to the proposal.

Democratic Rep. Andre Thapedi of Chicago sponsored the bill. The Urbana campus has 5.4 percent black enrollment, with higher percentages at the Chicago and Springfield campuses.  

Regardless of diversity concerns, Dietz said the 'one size fits all' solution won't work.

"One of the things we don't want to do is lead students on and find out later on that, while they may have had a good grade point average, they didn't do well on the ACT, and that they're in over their head once they would automatically get admitted," Dietz added.

Dietz also thanked Governor Bruce Rauner for proposing a 10 percent hike in Monetary Award Program grant funding for fiscal year 2018. MAP grants help low-income college students pay tuition and expenses. But Dietz pointed out there is no funding for current MAP grant recipients, since the stop-gap budget signed last spring only funded students through 2016. There are about 4,000 students at ISU impacted by MAP.

Dietz also discussed the selection of Besty DeVos as Secretary of Education. He said he'd never met DeVos and is optimistic she will perform her duties adequately. Parents of high school students and others across the nation have voiced strong opposition to DeVos' appointment, saying she has little to no public education experience and was chosen because of large campaign donations to members of Congress.

Dietz mentioned the three finalists for the position of Vice President for Finance and Planning will be on campus next week for interviews and meetings.

Willis is a Bloomington, IL, native. During his senior year at Bloomington High School, he finished third in the "Radio Speaking" division of the state speech contest, the only year he competed.