Proposed bill could bring change to Illinois admissions process

Illinois+State+Capitol+in+Springfield+on+May+15%2C+2016.

Brian Bauer

Illinois State Capitol in Springfield on May 15, 2016.

By Austin Stadelman , Columnist

It’s no secret that the financial problems in the state of Illinois have led to more students deciding to cross the border to further their education at the collegiate level. State Senator Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) and State Representative Dan Brady (R-Normal) have introduced new legislation that aims to tackle this issue.

According to Rep. Brady’s website, this new legislation would create uniform admission applications to be accepted at all public universities in Illinois, allow high school students who maintain a B average to be automatically accepted to a public university, make it so that students who are not offered admission to a public university be automatically referred to the community college in their district and legislate that public institutions of higher education present students with their scholarship letters upon acceptance.

There’s much to be developed and discussed in this bill. Regardless, if this becomes a high priority issue in the next General Assembly session, it’s going to be incredibly important for students and University faculty across the state to follow its progress. Some parts of this bill would only have nominal impact on the way University admissions operate, potentially having small benefits. However, the bill also has potential to change the way Illinois’ universities grant admission to students, and we, as a collective, have to determine what kind of changes we want, if any at all.

A universal application system would be systematically easier for students applying to college, benefiting both students and the state. Rather than having to apply to each university individually, students would be able to create a single application which they would have to simply select all the schools they wish to send that application to. This is a system that neighboring state Wisconsin has for its universities.

This has the potential to allow for a more invested applicant by condensing the amount of work a given student has to do, if they were to apply to multiple schools in the state, and incentivizing them to stay in state given the ease of accessibility to more choices.

However, aiming to create a new standard of admission, in which any student receiving a B average in high school would be accepted into the appropriate university, comes with heavy ambiguity. What specific universities would the B average apply to? What is an appropriate university for that average? The point is incredibly vague, which, I’m sure, is purposeful to leave room for discussion during the upcoming session in the General Assembly.

Creating a system where a letter grade, which, on paper, is equivalent across all transcripts but in difficulty of school and curriculum is vastly different, could cause questioning of how rigorous the work is in high school. Why should a student challenge themselves if they’re practically guaranteed admission taking easier classes? Is that the sort of attitude we want an Illinois education to be based upon?

It’s questionable to make arbitrary GPAs or class rank percentile as a line for automatic entry because of the aforementioned point that classes from one school could be the same on paper but vastly different in difficulty in the classroom. Even widely standardized courses, like AP classes, are no exception. The legislators say that while a certain GPA would merit automatic acceptance, the universities will remain autonomous in having their own admissions processes for their specific programs. However, the legislators do not specify how they plan to reconcile these contradictions.

Furthermore, having denied applicants be referred to the community college within their district, and having sequential applicant info provided for them, could be helpful for those who have no family experience or awareness of higher educational institutions. Obviously, it is not awareness in the sense that they exist but awareness in the sense of being able to identify what colleges are accessible to them.

Having a new universal application program point to which community college a denied applicant should attend could be helpful in theory, but there’s little evidence provided thus far that it would lead to an increase in community college attendance.

The last point of the proposed legislation is an overdue necessity. Requiring universities to send students grant and scholarship info with their acceptance letter is a small but important step for making attending college more financially feasible. Even though assisting students’ endless scavenging for scholarships is not the most effective way to make college affordable in the long run, having the university point directly to the resources available takes at least a small burden off of students.

Potentially saving them thousands of dollars from scholarships and grants they may have not been aware of otherwise.

Certain aspects of the bill make marginal changes that could prove to be helpful to both the state and its students. Simultaneously, the bill also has the potential to completely change the way Illinois college admissions operate. It is a civic responsibility for us collectively as students, faculty and constituents to follow the development of this bill.

Austin sophomore in Media.

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