SAN FRANCISCO (AP) The University of California regents formally approved yesterday an admissions policy to judge would-be students on their personal as well as their academic records. The policy, known as comprehensive review, was endorsed by a regents committee Wednesday and formally approved 15-4 with one abstention by the full board yesterday.

Under comprehensive review, admissions officials look at grades and test scores plus such things as whether a student overcame poverty or has special talents. Critics had branded the new policy as backdoor affirmative action, banned by state law, but regents amended the policy to say it wouldn”t be used to inject race into admissions.

As a leading public university, UC”s decision sends a signal to other schools struggling with how to balance academic merit with personal endeavor in an era when using subjective criteria such as race has come under legal fire.

Regents voted to drop race-based admissions in 1995. They rescinded that vote in May, but are bound by a 1996 state law banning most state affirmative action programs. After race-blind admissions went into effect, enrollment of blacks and Hispanics tumbled. The figures have rebounded since then, but not at Berkeley and UCLA.

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