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Report 92-14: Eligibility of California's 1990 High School Graduates for Admission to the State's Public Universities: A Report of the 1990 High School Eligibility Study

Published by The California Postsecondary Education Commission

June 1992

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California's 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education established significant differences in mission and function for the University of California, the California State University, and the California Community Colleges, including offering educational opportunities to somewhat different sets of California's college-going population. The Plan encouraged the University of California to set its eligibility criteria so that the top one-eighth of the State's public high school graduates would be eligible for freshman admission, while it encouraged the California State University to set its eligibility criteria so that the top one-third of those graduates would be eligible. In 1976 and again in 1987, the Legislature reviewed the Master Plan and reaffirmed these basic admissions guidelines.

Periodically, the Governor and the Legislature have asked the Commission to see how closely the current eligibility criteria of the University and State University match these guidelines. This study of the high school graduating class of 1990 is the sixth of its kind since 1961 and the fourth completed by the Commission. The report includes a discussion of the origins of the study (Part One), a description of the scope and methods of the study (Part Two), an overview of the 1990 high school graduating class (Part Three), analyses of the eligibility of 1990 public high school graduates for the California State University (Part Four) and the University of California (Part Five), an analysis of the eligibility of graduates of private high schools (Part Six), and a discussion of the implications of the findings (Part Seven).

The Commission found that the overall academic preparation of 1990 California public high school graduates had improved since the last eligibility study in 1986. Compared with their 1986 counterparts, (1) a greater percentage of 1990 graduates across all racial/ethnic groups have completed college preparatory courses; (2) a larger percentage took Advanced Placement exams; and (3) their California Assessment Program test scores were higher; as were their high school grade-point averages.

The Commission estimates that the proportion of 1990 California public high school graduates meeting the California State University's admissions criteria was 34.6 percent, of which 26.2 percent were eligible on the basis of grades alone and an additional 8.4 percent were eligible on the basis of the State University's Eligibility Index. It estimates that the proportion of public high school graduates eligible to attend the University was 18.8 percent, of which 12.3 percent were fully eligible--having met all admissions criteria--and an additional 6.5 percent were potentially eligible--having met the University's scholarship and subject requirements, but not have submitted the results of one or more required tests. At both universities, eligibility increased between 1986 and 1990 for both men and women and among all major racial/ethnic groups. The Commission warns against comparing public and private high schools in terms of their eligibility rates because of their many differences between their aims and clientele, but it estimates that 66.1 percent of the State's private school graduates were eligible for the State University as were 39.8 percent for the University. Finally, the Commission discusses the challenge facing the Senate in endeavoring to maintain its historical commitment of access to its public universities for eligible high school graduates, despite its unprecedented financial crisis.

The Commission adopted this report at its meeting of June 1, 1992, on recommendation of its Educational Policy and Programs Committee.

Related Topics: Enrollment Demand and Capacity Analysis | Eligibility for UC and CSU, Admission Policies | College-going and Preparation for Higher Education

Further information may be obtained from the Commission's Research Staff
(916) 445-1000 or via e-mail at

A copy of any publication may be requested from the Commission's Publications Unit
(916) 445-1000 or via e-mail at

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