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U.C. System Toughens Requirements for Admission

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The University of California system has toughened its freshman admission standards, an action that in the past has had a major impact on high-school curricula in the state.

The plan adopted by the uc board of regents this month requires a second year of laboratory science and a year of world history for admission to one of the system's nine campuses.

The change comes at a time when more high-school students in the state are qualifying for admission to system schools, and has led to charges by some that the higher standards may prove a barrier to students in financially strapped urban schools unable to upgrade their curricula.

Prospective students currently must have four years of college-preparatory English, three years of mathematics, two of a foreign language, one of lab science, and one of U.S. history.

Under the change approved May 18, students must have an additional year of lab science in biology, chemistry, physics, or earth science. They also must take either a single, year-long world-history course or one semester in world history and one in world geography and cultures.

Helen Henry, professor of biochemisty at uc-Riverside and chairman of the faculty committee that recommended the changes, called the latter "an attempt to address what many faculty see as a deficient global perspective."

"Students increasingly need to look at their world as the entirety of human experience," she said, "not just the Eurocentric perspective."

The tougher admission standards, which will go into effect with the entering class of 1994, are not expected to have a major impact on the surging enrollment in the uc system, which serves nearly 165,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Approximately 90 percent of current uc students already meet the strengthened high-school requirements, officials said.

For entrance into the uc system, applicants must have at least a 3.30 grade-point average in required courses. The system has a policy of admitting the top 12.5 percent of California high-school graduates, although at the most popular uc campuses, Berkeley and Los Angeles, admission standards are in practice much higher than the minimum.

Bill Rukeyser, a spokesman for the state education department, welcomed the tougher standards.

"Obviously, what uc asks for definitely has a salutary effect on California students," he said.

According to statistics to be re8leased this week, there has been a 20 percent jump since 1984 in the number of California high-school graduates meeting the so-called "A to F" requirements for admission to uc They took effect in the 1983-84 school year.

Better Prepared Graduates

The percentage of high-school graduates meeting those requirements has gone from 25.4 percent in 1984 to 30.6 percent in 1989, representing an additional 12,831 students. Last year, 74,854 graduates out of a total of 244,624 satisfied the uc standards, the report says.

It also shows that enrollment rates in advanced mathematics, physics, and chemistry classes have increased significantly since the uc admission standards took effect in 1983.

The rate of enrollment in chemistry, for example, has grown from 25.4 percent of high-school graduates in 1983-84 to 38.8 percent last year.

Some have expressed concern, however, that the toughened standards may be a barrier to disadvantaged youths. Yori Wada, a uc regent, brought up at the board's meeting the issue of whether students from urban districts might be adversely affected.

"I question the ability of those public schools to offer the courses we require," he said.

University officials point out, however, that if a school does not offer courses required for admission, applicants can still be admitted through special consideration.

In addition, the state report notes that minority students' rates of admission eligibility are climbing faster than that of students as a whole. The percentage of black students meeting the uc admission requirements, for example, increased from 17.2 percent in 1984-85 to 25.4 percent in 1989.

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