In 2009, The University of Texas System (U. T. System) assessed the use of standardized test scores and class rank in the admissions decision process. Given the impact of the legislative requirement to use class rank in public university undergraduate admissions in Texas, the U. T. System found that most U. T. System institutions were using multiple factors when making admissions decisions.
The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign was recently the focus of negative media attention due to reports of undue influence in admissions. The State of Illinois Admission Review Commission was established to evaluate the university’s admissions practices and found that a shadow admissions process existed, catering to applicants who were supported by public officials, University Trustees, donors, and other prominent individuals. The damage done by the existence of this hidden, yet institutionalized, process undermined public confidence in the university and its leadership.
The suspicion of a double standard that favors well-connected students is not new, particularly for more selective institutions. Ensuring that fair and transparent admissions processes exist across the U. T. System is necessary to maintain public trust. Recruitment and admissions policies that are disclosed to the public and are consistent with stated university goals garners public trust that student admissions are centered on merit.
The integrity of the admissions processes at each of the University of Texas institutions depends upon the unbiased determination of the appropriate merits of each applicant. Attempts to influence those processes by use of a person’s community stature, promise of financial donation (or threat to discontinue financial donation) or any other means that do not directly address the merits of the applicant are inappropriate and not consistent with the status of the university as a public institution of the state of Texas.
The importance of transparency and fairness in admissions processes cannot be over-emphasized. The admissions process serves as a gateway to many higher education opportunities and future career options and often places young adults at the beginning of a unique pathway that will lead them to a promising future. The U. T. System and each institution must ensure the integrity of the admissions process through implementation of the best practices outlined in this report.