WKU changes admission requirements

Natalie Hayden

WKU is changing its admission standards in order to bring in more qualified students and improve retention.

The new standards, which will go into effect in the fall, take into account a combination of a prospective student’s ACT score and high school GPA, said Brian Meredith, associate vice president for Enrollment Management.

Under the new standards, a student is guaranteed admission if they have an ACT composite score of 20 or a GPA of 2.5 and an ACT score of 15 or above. If a student does not meet these requirements, a combination of their ACT score and GPA are looked at, as well as other factors, such as high school class choices.

“We need to look more holistically at individuals and what their goals are,” said Gordon Emslie, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

Previously, a student with a high school GPA of 2.0 or above or an ACT score of 20 or above was automatically admitted to WKU.

“The ACT is an innate ability, a one-day test, while GPA shows persistence,” Emslie said. “They are a combination of what you need to be successful in college.”

WKU has also gotten rid of the “types” of admission, which Emslie said there were problems with. With the old standards, a student could have conditional, directed or full admission. Now, students will either be admitted or denied.

These changes were decided upon because of the low retention rate at WKU.

The university also has other ways to improve retention, such as a retention task force and the STEPS (Success Through Evaluation, Placement and Support) and Cornerstone programs, Emslie said.

The retention task force looks for ways to improve retention rates at WKU, while the STEPS program gives students more in-depth advising. The Cornerstone program is directed toward students at South Campus and encourages students to spread out their developmental classes.

“We have an acute issue with students making it from freshman to sophomore year,” Emslie said. “Retention after sophomore year is very high. We want to make students comfortable in their new environment.”

Sharon Hunter, coordinator of college readiness, said WKU took into account Senate Bill 1 when creating the new admission standards.

Senate Bill 1 passed in March 2009 and gives minimum scores in the math, reading and English sections of the ACT that proves students are ready for college.

“If a student makes at least the minimum score in all three sections, they are guaranteed admission,” Hunter said. “If they score less than the minimum score in one or more, the Cornerstone or Steps program are used to help fill in the gap.”

Meredith said the new standards are better for students who might have slacked off early in high school but did well in their junior and senior years.

“It raises standards somewhat but also has flexibility,” he said. “It’s a fair and equitable way to admit students but also speaks to our goal of raising retention.

“We don’t want to admit a student that will fail and not do well. We want them to have background and support to be successful.”