New admissions requirement for state colleges in 2012

This year’s freshmen set on attending a four-year college in Washington have a new laundry list of academic requirements to complete. In June, the State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) passed new admission requirements — approved by the Higher Education Coordinating Board (HECB) — for all Washington baccalaureate institutions.

Beginning in the summer of 2012, all college applicants must have: four credits in English; three math credits with a minimum full year of Algebra 1, 2 and Geometry; two science credits (beginning in the summer of 2010, two credits of laboratory-based science, including one credit of algebra-based biology, chemistry or physics, will be required); three social science credits; one arts credit; two world language credits; and one senior-year math-based quantitative course. Most of these courses are already offered at Mercer Island High School, so students should have little problem with meeting the new standards.

“The in-state entrance requirements don’t affect Mercer Island kids, as the vast majority are meeting these requirements anyway,” said Mercer Island High School Principal John Harrison. Yet the principal added that he sent a letter home to all parents notifying them of the new state requirement. A detailed list of the required courses for 2012 graduates was also distributed.

The revised state standards aim to increase the likelihood of success in college by strengthening students’ academic preparation, according to Mercer Island High School college counselor Mj Hillstrom.

“Colleges are finding that students do much better in college if they have a full senior schedule,” she said, adding that most MIHS students “carry on with rigor throughout their senior year.”

Nevertheless, Hillstrom and her co-counselors monitor each student to make sure he or she is on track for college.

“Every semester, a graduation check is done on every student to make sure they’re on track for graduation,” she said. “We advise them of all sorts of post-secondary possibilities and guide them as to how to prepare for these opportunities.”

The new HECB standards are not required for high school graduation and do not apply to Washington private and technical colleges. In total, six state schools have adopted the requirements: the University of Washington Seattle, Bothell and Tacoma; Western Washington University; Evergreen State College; Central Washington University; Eastern Washington University and Washington State University.

Most of these in-state schools are becoming harder to get into due to growing admissions. Last year, the University of Washington denied a record number of “qualified” students, purely because the amount of applicants exceeded space availability, according to Philip Ballinger, UW Director of Admissions.

“I have difficult conversations with parents [in which] I tell them that the primary reason their child was rejected [from the University of Washington] has nothing to do with his or her ability to be successful but because so many kids are applying,” Ballinger was quoted by the Reporter as saying last May. “We can’t admit nearly enough students in terms of their ability to do well.”

The Class of 2008 was one of the biggest in Island history, with more than 370 seniors graduating. The Class of 2012, if its size stays consistent, will only see about 335 students pass through MIHS. If this dropping enrollment reflects statewide numbers, Washington colleges may once again become less competitive in admissions. Either way, students will have to complete coursework to join the race.

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