When University Provost Teresa Sullivan laughs and confesses to not knowing why the University recalculates the GPAs of high school applicants, it’s probably not a well-advised policy. Last week, the administration decided to end this time-consuming practice in order to focus on other aspects of the admissions process — a welcome change. Recalculated GPAs removed important classes, including most arts classes, from a student’s GPA. The University should value high school students’ achievements in all courses, not just ones in mainstream subjects, as a way of encouraging high schools to maintain diverse curricula.
Until last week, the University’s policy was to remove courses that did not fall into the major academic categories and recalculate each applicant’s GPA, though all classes were still factored in as part of the student’s coursework. But with the policy change, the University will now simply evaluate the GPA that appears on an applicant’s transcript. Administrators claim that GPA isn’t a major factor in the admissions process in any case, and that this change will save time.
No matter how little GPA actually counts toward a student’s admission, the calculation should still include all of a student’s coursework. Arbitrarily removing art classes discounts students who worked hard and received good grades in those classes. Proficiency in classes that are outside the English/math/science/history mainstream is exactly what the admissions office should be looking for.
For a University that claims to value diversity, it’s wrong to put high school students who performed well in fine arts courses at a disadvantage. The arts play a valuable intellectual role in the education of many students and should be treated as such. After all, the University offers many such classes, and excelling in at least some of them is a necessity for most University students. Changing this policy, if nothing else, sends the message that the University does weigh the merits of all academic subjects.
Sending such a message is more important than ever. With funding for K-12 education decreasing across the state to compensate for the budget deficit, high schools will be looking for ways to cut costs. Universities shouldn’t be indicating that arts and other courses are less important and could be cut to save money. If students don’t have access to these classes in high school, they will be less prepared to handle the diverse range of coursework that college offers them. High schools should try to preserve these classes, and the University should reward students who excel in them.
Creating a strong intellectual community isn’t accomplished solely by evaluating math, natural sciences, history and English — the fine arts and other areas are a part of that, too, and the University should use this change in policy as an opportunity to give fair consideration for candidates from all backgrounds and encourage their intellectual curiosity.