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February 15, 2010


A. Report from the Admissions and Registration Committee and introduction of Vice Provost Kedra Ishop, director of admissions.

Professor Mark Bernstein (associate dean for student affairs in the College of Communication and committee chair) said his report was a brief introduction to the admissions process at UT Austin and the ways in which the faculty can become involved in shaping admissions policy. (See Appendix B for the visuals used in his presentation.) Because the Faculty Council Executive Committee members were concerned that faculty members might not fully understand how the admissions process works, he said he had been asked to present a brief overview.

Professor Bernstein said faculty members can be involved with the admissions process and issues through the following avenues: (1) participating on the Admissions and Registration Committee, (2) interacting with their department chair and/or dean so that their concerns can be raised by the dean in meetings held with the admissions director and staff, (3) participating on the Faculty Council and perhaps the Council’s executive committee, and (4) participating as a faculty representative on the Educational Policy Committee.

After describing the structure and composition1 of the Admissions and Registration Committee, Professor Bernstein listed a number of different issues that the committee had addressed in the past. The registration issues included the implementation of the plus-minus grading system, format of the online course schedule, and whether or not course instructor evaluations should be included in the online course schedule.

With regard to admissions, he said the committee received regular updates on state laws concerning admissions, top 10 percent entitlement and related issues, changes in the state mandated standards for high school graduates, recommended high school curriculum and programs of study. After studying and learning about the issues, the committee deliberates and decides if proposed legislation should be drafted and sent forward to the Faculty Council or if a referral to the Educational Policy Committee is needed. He said individuals have usually heard about the Top 10% Rule, but the admission process at UT is much more complex than that one provision implies.

Professor Bernstein then introduced Ms. Kedra Ishop, the new vice provost and director of admissions, who presented a PowerPoint series of slides that covered how the admissions process works for specific colleges/schools, departments, and majors across campus as well as for the overall University. Because of the detailed inclusion of numbers and percentages as well as the importance of the topic, especially for Council members who were unable to be present for her presentation, the secretary has included both the PowerPoint and a narrative of her presentations in Appendix C and D, respectively.

When Vice Provost Ishop invited questions at the end of her presentation, Professor Hillis said he understood the need for prospective students to meet special requirements in the fine arts, but he thought programs in natural sciences and liberal arts had comparable needs and requirements that students seeking to major in these areas should meet. He said he had observed a decline in the number of students, even those in the top 10 percent of their graduating classes, whose capabilities were inappropriate for scientific fields of study due largely to their insufficient backgrounds in math and science. He expected the special talents in creative writing would be appropriate for those seeking certain majors in English. He asked how departments could achieve special needs status so they could successfully admit students whose backgrounds offered better preparation and a higher likelihood of success for their academic programs? Vice Provost Ishop said she thought expansion was already underway in this area and explained that she had engaged in extensive interactions with Associate Dean David Laude (natural sciences) about the impact that programs in his college had experienced due to the Top 10% Rule as well as the need for prescreening methods for math capability. She said that imposing a 75 percent cap on natural science admissions had been discussed but this would adversely affect the availability of majors for top 10 percent admits, which UT Austin is legally required to enroll.

Vice Provost Ishop indicated that her work with Dean Laude in his efforts to implement prescreening math evaluation programs and on-line tutorials, such as those used in engineering, looked quite promising. She said she had coordinated recruitment efforts with the Department of Computer Science to attract majors when the bust decreased student demand for their degree programs. She said she had also worked with newly established degree programs, such as Hindu/Urdi, to increase awareness and facilitate recruitment of prospective majors. The vice provost said the issue of balancing individual program needs with those of the overall University and providing available majors to students, particularly those who do not qualify for restricted programs but are legally entitled to be served by UT, poses a challenging problem. She said she hoped the new legislation that offers UT Austin increased latitude for admissions decisions could provide improvement in matching appropriate applicants to the majors and their requirements across campus.

After noting that the faculty of the University are “supposed to establish the admissions criteria,” according to the Regents’ Rules, Professor Hillis said he didn’t “see much of a role for faculty input” and perceived that faculty generally felt disconnected from the admissions process. Professor Bernstein said the Admissions and Registration Committee had been discussing ways whereby the faculty might become involved and had focused on the need for policies and guidelines to be established regarding how the discretionary admissions decisions would be made under the more flexible 75 percent cap. He also suggested and encouraged faculty involvement in conversations with the deans as a mechanism for generating opportunities for effective faculty input.

Vice Provost Ishop said she understood that the process created in 1998 regarding admissions had come through the Admissions and Registration Committee so she recommended faculty involvement in that committee as well. She added that she definitely perceived the committee as the place input for faculty as well as for administrators such as herself. She said the committee is where she initiates efforts to gain faculty approval for proposals and/or new ideas. When Professor Brian Evans (electrical and computer engineering) asked about enrollment figures for first-time in-college students during in recent years and projections of enrollment for the future, Vice Provost Ishop provided the following information:

Fall 2008: ~6,900 (slightly fewer than targeted)
Fall 2009: 7,241 (41 over targeted number)
Fall 2010: 7,200 targeted Fall 2011: to be projected in Fall 2010 after looking at overall enrollment

1For a description of the committee, see

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Appendix D
Narrative Report of Vice Provost Kedra Ishop, Director of Admissions, which Accompanies the PowerPoint in Appendix C

Thank you for having me this afternoon. I’m really excited to be here. I’ll come back to this in a moment, but if you’ve seen wandering souls wandering around campus today with their parents, we have about 1,700 high school seniors and students on campus today, who are our most highly sought after academic recruits to the University. They’ve been spending the day with us visiting campus and visiting with academic departments. So they’re here; if you see them, say hi. Let’s give them the good welcome, and hopefully they’ll join us in the fall.

I did want to take the opportunity to certify all of you in admissions 301 by the time you walk out of here today. So for everyone that left, too bad for them. They’re not going to have the chance to gain this certification. I think Mark’s point is very valid, that we do need to make sure everyone starts in the same place and has an understanding about how the process works. There’s quite a lot of conversation in the public and in the media about the admissions process. Much of it could be debated as to whether or not it’s talked about in a fair manner. So, I wanted to take you a little bit through the process, the role of top 10 percent, and then talk a little bit about the new policy and what that means for us.

To start, let me tell you a little bit about current affairs. We are, right now, finalizing the admissions of the class of 2011. In admissions, whether from a recruitment standpoint or an admissions standpoint, we’re often working about eighteen months in advance. So we’re about to roll out 2011 and have started recruiting 2012. So, we’re well ahead of the class that you’re going to bring in this fall semester because we really start our work with juniors. In the future, we’ll start our work with students even younger than that.

The class we are admitting at this point started with an application pool of 31,000. We continue to see increases in our applications. Numbers were a little flat this year. Flat is a little bit deceiving because we moved our deadline back a full month this year. We’re in the middle of a three-year rollback of our deadline from February 15 to December 15. We’ve been challenged by President Powers to go after both diversity and quality. One of the ways to do that is to get into the minds of high school seniors earlier in the process. So we’ve been challenged to get to them and to talk to them about admissions decisions earlier. To do that we need to review their applications earlier. So, we’re in year two of a three-year move, and this year we had a deadline of December 15. I fully expected we’d be down a little bit in applications, but in the last week, about 7,000 freshmen applicants put in an application, and we still exceeded 31,000 applications for the entering class of 2011.

(Slide 1) The very next thing that we have to look at, and you’ll see that it’s my leading slide, because the top 10 percent really is, at least for one more year, quite a dictator of our process. How many of those students that apply are top 10 percent? Because, as many of you know, if you’re a Texas resident or if you’re in the top 10 percent of your class in a Texas high school, you’re guaranteed admission to The University of Texas at Austin or any of the other public institutions in Texas. In this class of 31,000 applications, 10,900 of those applicants were top ten percenters. For four legislative sessions, we’ve been seeking relief from the Top 10% Rule, and we have been expecting that, within if not this cycle then perhaps the next cycle, we would fill our class with top ten percenters. We’re just about there this year, but we’d probably have been there last year were it not for the reprieve of Senate Bill 175. Of the class of 31,000 students, we want to enroll a class of 7,200 freshmen.

The process that I go through is that I meet with Provost Leslie at the beginning of the admissions cycle to discuss the enrollment or the class size that is expected for the University. Then we talk about whether it’s a ceiling or a floor. Can you afford to go over, or do you need to come under depending on enrollment limitations of the University? So, we know for this year, just like last, that we need to bring in a class of about 7,200 students. From that point, we have to make decisions about enrollment based on both the University at-large, for 7,200 students, but also for thirteen individual colleges and schools with a variety of challenges. Some colleges and schools need to be a little bit larger, some need to be a little bit smaller. At the end of the day, we need to make sure that we come back to 7,200. So there’s quite a bit of a dance going on to balance the needs of the institution with the needs of the colleges and schools. Following that meeting, as Mark pointed out, we go into the colleges and schools and start meeting with the deans, the academic and student deans, to discuss their needs. What are the needs of departments, what are the needs of individual programs, and do we need to talk on that granular level to make sure that we can align both of those processes.

That brings us to this point. We have our charge. We need to go out and enroll a class of 7,200, I know that engineering wants to be at 1,150, and that business wants to be 850, and communications needs 600, and on and on and on. So we start this process. We start, at least for this year, with how many top ten percenters, because that very much dictates what we need to do. Top 10 percenters are admitted, for the most part, on a rolling basis. We’re required to admit them, and so where possible, we admit them as early as possible. We opened the application on August 1, and we admitted our first seniors on about September 15 this academic year, top ten percenters. We roll those decisions as we’re able to do.

(Slide 2) There are programs that have special requirements even for top ten percenters. The School of Architecture for instance does not participate in the automatic admissions policy. They bring in a class of about sixty students. They’d have probably 200 if we allowed the top 10 percenters to choose, even the first and second percentile alone. Art and art history has a crazy notion that you need to be able to draw and have some artistic skill in order to be in their program. Music believes you need to be able to sing or play an instrument. So, we work closely with those faculty to make sure that we can balance both academic needs as well as the artistic and performance needs of the school of fine arts, theater, and dance as well.

The Cockrell School of Engineering is probably our most recent example of good collaboration with the faculty. As that school, and now we see in the College of Natural Sciences, there is a need to increase the math readiness of our high school seniors, whether they are top 10 percent or not. And, we need to make sure that when students enter into the hard science fields, they’re ready to tackle the curriculum. So, a few years ago, we worked with the Cockrell School of Engineering to develop a math readiness policy, which limits applicants to the Cockrell School of Engineering to being ready to enter calculus. If they’re not ready to enter calculus, regardless of their rank, they’re not admissible to engineering and instead must choose another major. It was certainly bumpy changing that policy for top 10 percenters after many years of having automatic admission, but it has worked wonders for the Cockrell School of Engineering. We’re seeing similar math developments in the College of Natural Sciences.

We can’t take every top ten percenter into the major they want. If that were the case, the McCombs School of Business would be the size of the College of Liberal Arts because many of our students have a first choice in the McCombs School of Business. Business was really the first pass. Three years into top 10 percent, the McCombs School of Business filled their spaces with top ten percenters. Their Texas residence spaces, their non-residence spaces, and their international spaces filled with students, who were admitted automatically. At that point, through the Admissions and Registration Committee and through the Faculty Council, the University enacted a policy that says that when a major college or school, depending on the level that we make admissions, passes 80 percent of its spaces with automatic admission, they have the right through the dean to invoke a cap on how many top 10 percenters can automatically be admitted.

(Slide 3) The five programs that you see listed: McCombs, communications, all majors within engineering now, nursing, and kinesiology in education have limited the number of top ten percenters, who can automatically be admitted to no more than 75 percent of their spaces. This is now going to be good practice for us as we move into SB 175 and make determinations about how to admit the entire class on a limited basis. But, essentially what we’ll do every year is establish, for instance, for the McCombs School of Business, what percentage of the class in the previous year, or what percentile of the class in the previous year, would we have taken to reach 75 percent of the Texas spaces. So, for instance, this year it takes the top 2 percent to fill 75 percent of the spaces in the McCombs School of Business, the top 2 percent to fill biomedical engineering, the top 4 percent to fill nursing, the top 7 percent, I believe, to fill kinesiology, and we could easily go on for all of the engineering majors. So, we have fantastic kids that are applying for admissions here. These aren’t slackers by any stretch of the imagination. But, we also have a need to manage our enrollments and to make sure that we have space for competition--space for students to be considered on more than a single factor--because we are not interested in just their ability to outperform their peers in the classroom. So, this rule was enacted to allow us to do that.

(Slide 4) This next slide gives you a bit of an idea about how the rest of this works. Imagine that we separate the pool into three categories. We have our out-of-state students, both domestic and international, that account for about 10 percent of our spaces. Then, the remaining 90 percent of our spaces are allotted to Texas residents. Out-of-state applicants, international applicants, the remaining 25 percent of our spaces in colleges and schools, and all students not in the top 10 percent go through what we consider to be a rigorous, holistic review. Holistic means we look at every single thing the student submits to us. We read all of their file and make admission decisions on the basis of both their academic information and their personal achievements.

I’m going to go through that a bit more. You can see that within that holistic review, it includes all of the non-top 10 percenters and all of the top 10 percenters not automatically admitted. For instance, if you’re in the top 5 percent of your class and you’ve applied to McCombs, you go through holistic review to see if you can compete for the remaining 25 percent of the spaces in McCombs. There are students in non-ranking high schools. The law is very explicit in saying you must be ranked by your high school, explicitly X over Y, in order to garner the benefits and entitlement of top 10 percent. For schools that do not rank their students, they’re not eligible for automatic admission. We have seen over the evolution of top 10 percent that many of our private schools, who are historically non-ranking and who we actually have coded as non-ranking schools, will rank their top 10 percent for the benefit of law. They’re pseudo-not ranking. They’ll rank their top 10 percenters for public institutions and not rank the remainder of their class. At that point, we rank them because we have a policy that requires rank so we establish a ranking for them. All of our home-schooled students are ranked because one-out-of-one doesn’t help them with the Top 10% Rule. We read all of the home-school files and establish a peer comparison ranking for home-school students as well.

(Slide 5) The holistic review process is really the nuts and bolts of the admissions process. We started the holistic review following the Hopwood decision back in 1997. The first class to come in under holistic review was in 1999. There was a rigorous faculty committee or faculty involvement process that developed the holistic review process through which we now admit students. Prior to this, you could look in the view book and find test score and class rank and know whether or not you were admissible. That was certainly the case when I applied to Texas eons ago in 1993. No longer is it nearly that transparent for students and families, which is probably what drives them the most crazy.

The holistic review process is really divided into two segments. We make an academic assessment of the student, and we make a personal, holistic view of the student. The academic achievement consists of class rank because we believe in the importance of how a student performs against their peers in the same environment, and class rank tells us that. We look at SAT and ACT scores. We use whichever best benefits the student in the admissions process. We encourage students to send us all of their scores all of the times when they test. Right now, we have appeals from those that don’t heed that advice because they missed the deadline. We look at high school courses, and we look to see how students exceed our minimum requirements and reward them for doing that. If they take a more challenging curriculum, more than we require of them, we reward them in the process for that. That creates their academic achievement.

Personal achievement consists of two essays and a resume, either as part of the Texas application or submitted separately. Most students will submit an expanded resume outside of the application and optional letters of recommendation; we average about 3.3 letters per student even though they are not required. Optional essay C, which is really the opportunity for students to tell us anything that they need to tell us that they think they need to get off their chest or they’d like to be included in the admissions process. That’s a relatively new essay to the application process.

(Slide 6) The personal achievement index, which includes the test scores, the resume, the full file read of the application, ultimately goes from reading essays and reading text to a number. At some point in the process all students end up on a grid, and I’ll show you the matrix in just a moment. At least for the review of the file, we have about forty-three readers on staff, including about eight to ten readers per year that we hire to assist us with the reading process. We started that about two years ago to evaluate the essays. Full time staff read the full file. The essays and the leadership are averaged over seven to get us back to a produce to a value of one to six. The averaging of the essays and the leadership was actually a faculty member’s recommendation when this process was first established because at the time the faculty member suggested that we weren’t quite sure who might be writing those essays so we wanted to give a little bit more weight to the resume than to the essay in case there was anything going on.

(Slide 7) You can see that the leadership, which actually is very much in tune with the mission and values of this institution, is a bit more weighted in the process than are the essays. The averaging of the scoring of the file gets us back to a product between one and six. Likewise the academic achievement index, and we also call it predicted GPA, also gets us back to a number. The components of the student’s class rank and test score and what we call units plus, which is the notion of them exceeding our unit requirements, is based on a regression equation that looks at the performance of the students in their freshman year and takes it back to establish the PGPA, or academic index for students in the applicant process. You can see that product is on a four-point scale just like a GPA. If the student has exceeded our minimum requirements, that four-point scale in increased by one-tenth so the range is from 0.0 predicted grade point average to a 4.1 predicted grade point average.

(Slide 8) I take you through this process because it really does lead you to how we actually make decisions. We spend weeks upon weeks upon weeks upon weeks, and I harass staff to get their files read because we have to go through the reading process to get to the decision process. The reading places students on the grid. If a student is read, their essays are read, their full file is read, and they get a personal achievement index score of a five, they have an academic index as well based on their test score and class rank, let’s say of a 2.9. That student then occupies a cell on this matrix. All 31,000 students that apply with complete applications will eventually occupy a cell on one of these matrices. There are forty-two iterations of these matrices because we do them for Texans. We do them for non-residents. Engineering has sixteen alone because all the majors are divided. We make decisions for each major. Education has four times two for non-residents. There are multiple iterations of this process.

What I’m going to show you is just a model of how it might work. At the end of the day we have so many spaces that we can take. If we know that we have 280 spaces, we need to find the best 280 to make admissions decisions to. What we know about this institution has been determined by faculty, determined by the Board of Regents, and determined by the state is that we value both academic quality and personal achievement. We want to be sure to value both of those in the decision making process.

When we need to find 280 students, we find the best cells that have the best 280 students. We’d have two options. We could draw a vertical line. But, if we drew a vertical line, we’d only be honoring the academic achievement. We’d only be honoring class rank and test score. We could draw a horizontal line, and but if we did that, we’d only be valuing leadership and work experience and all the intangibles they bring to the personal achievement. So, instead we are very deliberate in drawing a stair step because we want to honor both. We want to make sure that we find the students who are performing most admirably outside of a classroom as well as finding those students who are doing absolutely fantastic academic work, which maybe makes it the case that they can’t do quite as much outside of the classroom. What you see within the regular admit grid in the green would be an example of how we draw the lines. This slide or this matrix that we are showing you has been used here at UT for years. What’s different about when we probably first rolled out this matrix to show it on display compared to now is that probably where we’re really doing most of our business up around a 3.5, 3.4, or 3.5 to 3.8. We’re no longer hanging out too much in the 2.9, 2.8, or 2.7 range because we don’t have the space to delve that deeply into the matrices due to our limited enrollment, high numbers of applications, and applicant strength. That’s an example of how it would work over and over again for every college, school, and major that we’re admitting to Texans and non-Texans alike.

(Slide 9) At the end of the process, we go through this again because we instituted a waitlist last year, and we use the same methodology for admitting students to the waitlist that we use for making admission decisions. We determine how many students we need to occupy the waitlist, and we find the next best group of students from the students that we already admitted to select the waitlist category. What we know about high school students is that they know everyone. If they don’t know everyone, mom and dad know everyone. What we really know best is that there’s very little distinction between the students on the corner of the green box and the accompanying white box that’s right next to it. There’s very little distinction between those students. You can guarantee that those two kids know each other. “Well he got in, and I didn’t and we have essentially the same credentials.” That’s very much the case and that’s what makes the conversations so difficult that we’ll be having in a couple of weeks with students who were not offered admission to the University.

(Slide 10) Student who are not offered the waitlist and are Texas residents will be offered the Coordinated Admissions Program (CAP). The coordinated waitlist program is in its eighth year. This is the eighth cohort that we have out. It’s offered to any Texas resident who completed their application. UT Austin has never denied admission to students, who have completed their applications; we haven’t gotten to that point yet. So. at this point, if they’re not offered admission to the fall class, then they would be offered admission to one of our component institutions. This year, with the addition of UT Dallas, all eight of our undergraduate component institutions participate in the CAP. If the student chooses to accept the CAP offer, they go off to the component institution that they’re eligible for and or that they choose. They must spend a year there and accomplish taking 30 hours with a minimum GPA of 3.2. If they accomplish those requirements taking approved coursework, they’re guaranteed admission back to UT Austin as sophomores. Last year we brought about 760 students back from the component campuses. We expect that this year we might be a little higher than last year…maybe closer to 800. If so, this will then affect the available slots for transfer students because all of this is interconnected.

So, there are multiple pathways to the institution through the fall freshmen class or the coordinated admissions program for freshmen applicants as well as through the regular transfer route. We admit about 2,000 transfer applicants every year. We are approximately one-third CAP transfers, one-third four-year institution transfers, and about one-third two-year community college transfer. Through these processes, we bring in a class of about 9,200 students each year.

Okay, so you are all now hereby certified in admissions 301 at least from a very basic perspective. I’d love to come again and chat with you about questions you may have. I’m glad to take any now.

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