How to Assess Nontraditional Students

A new admissions policy at the University of Utah sets out very specific requirements for nontraditional students, those who are older and have been out of high school for several years.

That’s because the university discovered that its ambiguous admissions policies designed for high school seniors didn’t make any sense for older adults. Or, more specifically, it didn’t have a good reason to reject them, even if they were totally unprepared for college.

According to an article by Brian Maffly in the Salt Lake Tribune:

Problems with the U.’s nontraditional admissions policy surfaced two years ago with the application of an out-of-state man, according to U. lawyer Robert Payne. During the unidentified man’s dealings with U. officials, he divulged that his reading skills were poor and his admission was denied.

He apparently read at a fourth-grade level.

Because the university had no objective way to assess applicants who haven’t been inside a classroom in years, however, the applicant in question could argue, and did, that the university was discriminating against him. According to the article he “filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), which determined the U. had discriminated against the student on the basis of his learning disability.”

But all is apparently well now because the institution now has a real policy:

“We want to make sure we take life experiences, military service, work experience, those types of things, into consideration,” said Mary Parker, the U.’s vice president for enrollment management. “This incident has afforded us the opportunity to look at these individuals more holistically.”

Well yes, but the guy couldn’t read. However “holistically” you want to look at this the guy probably wouldn’t work out too well at the university.

Under the new policy students applying for admission must demonstrate that they have finished “four years of English, two years of math beyond algebra, three years of science, two years of a foreign language, [and] one year of history.”

The guy who couldn’t read, of course, still wouldn’t have been admitted, but at least he can’t sue the school anymore.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer