WKU trying to raise ACT standards, retention rates

Katherine Wade

In an effort to bring in students who are “college-ready,” WKU is working to raise admission standards.

According to U.S. News and World Report list, WKU is among the top 100 institutions with the highest acceptance rate in the country with 92 percent acceptance.

Currently, for full admission into WKU, the minimum high school grade point average is 2.5 on a 4.0 scale, or an ACT composite of 20 or higher, according to the WKU website.

Brian Meredith, associate vice president for Enrollment Management, said raising the admission requirements will hopefully impact retention.

“When you bring in better qualified students, they’ll do better and stay longer,” Meredith said.

The WKU 2011 Fact Book states that in the fall of 2010, 7,993 prospective students applied to WKU and 7,393, or 92 percent, were admitted.

Of those admitted, 3,377, or 46 percent, students actually enrolled at the university.

Meredith said raising admission standards may mean that more students are denied acceptance to WKU. However, he believes that will be beneficial in the long run.

“Most philosophies of raising retention say that if you bring in students who are prepared, you are more likely to retain them,” he said.

One of these changes will be to raise the minimum ACT score needed for admission.

President Gary Ransdell said that two years ago, WKU made the decision that to raise the minimum required ACT score a point a year for five years.

At the time, the minimum ACT score for admission was 16. Ransdell said WKU would like to get that up to the national average, which is roughly 21.

According to the Fact Book, the average ACT score of WKU students is 21. Only 31.1 percent of students have an ACT score of more than 24, and 4.7 percent have a score of more than 30.

Ransdell said a lot of factors besides ACT score are considered when admitting students, such as high school GPA. The average high school GPA of students at WKU is 3.16.

Meredith said admissions are also going to work more with the regional two-year schools.

“We already have joint-admission agreements with many schools, and we are just looking to grow and expand on those,” he said.

Meredith said there are a variety of reasons beyond admission such as financial problems that students choose to start off at a smaller, two-year institution.

Ransdell said he doesn’t expect to see much change in the ratio between in-state and out-of-state students.

The average ACT and GPA numbers of out-of-state students is typically higher than those of in-state students, and therefore retention of out-of-state students is better, Ransdell said.

Provost Gordon Emslie said although student retention is not an exact science, it is still a science.

Emslie said looking at the correlation of student retention with high school GPA and ACT scores will allow the university to admit students who are more “prepared to succeed.”