Click here to view document in portable document format (PDF)





Executive Vice President and Provost Sheldon Ekland-Olson has provided a draft of a proposal, reproduced below, to control enrollment by redefining the University's Provisional Admission Program. This proposal will be discussed at the meeting of the Faculty Council on September 18, 2000. The Secretary has classified this item as general legislation. The Council can take action on the legislation at its meeting on October 16.


John R. Durbin, Secretary
The Faculty Council

This legislation was posted on the Faculty Council web site ( on September 14, 2000. Paper copies are available on request from the Office of the General Faculty, FAC 22, F9500






The University of Texas at Austin has long had a Provisional Admission Program. This program was originally designed to give students not regularly admitted to the University a chance to prove they could perform well in the highly-competitive academic environment on the Austin campus. In recent years, two things have happened. First, the quality of students being provisionally admitted has improved to a point where, for many students, it no longer makes sense to say they are being denied regular admission because they would not be able to compete. Concerns for program design as well as for a student’s sense of pride and accomplishment have emerged as a result. Second, increased enrollment pressures have led to a dramatically increased number of students enrolling in the provisional program, which has led to a substantial reduction in the University’s ability to control admission. This proposal to change the Provisional Admission Program is motivated and informed by both of these factors.


Enrollment peaked in 1989 at 50,245. Believing that it could not adequately handle enrollment of this size, the University, in 1990, began to lower enrollment to the more manageable level of 48,000. The plan was to allow the graduate population to grow while lowering the number of undergraduates. By fall 1995, the goal had been reached and overall enrollment bottomed out at 47,905.

Graduate enrollment did increase between 1990 and 1993, before going into a steady decline that continued through 1998; undergraduate enrollment decreased between 1990 and 1995, but has risen steadily since. Law School enrollment remained flat from 1990 to 1994, but has declined since.

Driven by increases in undergraduate enrollment, there has been a steady increase in overall enrollment to 49,902 in fall 1999. Projections by the Office of Institutional Studies indicate that, absent changes in our undergraduate admission policy, fall 2000 enrollment will once again approach the high-water mark of 1989.


The number of high school graduates from Texas public and private high schools is projected to increase steadily for the next ten years rising from an estimated 209,800 in 1999-2000 to 233,500 in 2010-2011. These students are already in the pipeline. Efforts are being made to improve high school graduation rates. There is every reason to believe we will continue to see enrollment pressure in the foreseeable future.

A link exists between regularly admitted and provisionally admitted students. As regular admissions become more selective, the provisional admission cohort becomes larger and more qualified. Larger provisional cohorts will yield a higher proportion of successful students who will enter the University in the fall. Unless we change the current provisional admission policy we will not be able to control enrollment. Hence this proposal for change.


Working Assumptions

A. Students with a strong desire to succeed at the highest level should be given the chance to do so, even when their entry academic credentials do not signal success. Hence, the Provisional Admission Program should not be totally eliminated.


B. The goal is to keep The University of Texas at Austin at a total enrollment of roughly 48,000 students, with approximately 36,000 undergraduate and 12,000 graduate students.

Three-tiered Freshman Admission Policy

Two changes in admission and enrollment policies are being proposed. First, we propose to substitute a Summer Enrollment Plan, designed to yield approximately 600 regularly admitted students, for the current on-campus Provisional Admission Program. Second, we propose to create an "Off-site" Provisional Program at a sister UT System university. This pilot program is being designed in cooperation with UT Arlington. Other universities might be added, depending on the success of the UT Arlington initiative. The result would be a three-tiered admissions program: Fall Admission; Summer Enrollment Plan; and Off-site Provisional Admission.

A. Fall Admission

This program will continue as currently structured.

B. Summer Enrollment Plan

We propose that the current on-campus Provisional Admission Program be replaced by a Summer Enrollment Program effective summer 2001. There are several compelling reasons for doing so. The two most important are: 1) Regular summer admission will allow us to better control overall student enrollment. 2) The design of the Provisional Admission Program no longer matches the students who enroll. The qualifications of students who are currently being offered the provisional option have changed over time to include many very able students. These students are not being well served by a "pseudo-remedial" or "bridge" program. They and their families are insulted by the implication that they are not "college ready," and they become grudging participants only because they want to be at UT Austin, not because they feel that summer academic work is necessary to their academic development. Because of the improved academic abilities of students, the current Provisional Admission Program has become less well matched to students and more difficult to manage.

With the initiation of the Summer Enrollment Program, students would enroll in typical first-semester freshman courses. This would relieve some of the course availability problems currently experienced in the fall semester. These students would be held to the same GPA requirements placed on students entering in the fall. They would be free to select courses appropriate to their goals. Using current matriculation rates, we believe it will be possible to enroll a total freshman class of 7,000 (6,400 fall plus 600 from summer) without increasing overall enrollment.

C. Provisional Program through UT Arlington

We propose that the current Provisional Admission Program be redesigned and moved, effective summer 2001, to The University of Texas at Arlington.

Fall freshman applicants who are not offered fall admission or the newly proposed Summer Enrollment Plan will be offered admission through the Off-site Provisional Program. Upon completion of a required 30-credit sequence of courses and the maintenance of at least a 3.0 GPA, these students will be accepted unconditionally into the College of Liberal Arts or the College of Natural Sciences. They may also compete for admission into the major of their choice once they arrive on campus. Should they fail to attain the required credits and GPA within their first year at UT Arlington, they would no longer be eligible for automatic admission and would compete for admission to UT Austin as regular transfer students.

UT Arlington has been very supportive of this plan. Preliminary meetings have taken place and the program is fully endorsed by President Robert Witt.



Admission for freshman applicants would be hierarchical in the following way. The top students would be offered regular fall admission. The next set of students would be offered the Summer Enrollment Plan. The remaining students would be offered Provisional Admission through UT Arlington.

Program Review

Because these changes are dramatic, it is expected that adjustments will need to be made as the various aspects of the proposal become operational. A formal and thorough program review will be conducted at the end of the third year by representatives of the colleges and UT System institutions involved.