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UMass Revises Admissions Policy

January 20, 2000

AMHERST, Mass. (AP) _ Starting next fall, race and SAT scores will have less impact on which freshmen are admitted to the University of Massachusetts, administrators announced Wednesday.

The change in the admissions process grew from concerns that the school’s old system of affirmative action was susceptible to court challenges. Similar policies have been struck down by courts around the country.

The new system considers income and other factors, such as grades, state residency and personal achievement in deciding who will be admitted.

When it was proposed last year, hundreds of students protested on campus. Wednesday, when the administration announced the final policy, most students were away on winter break.

``I definitely think that we are stepping back into our past,″ said Asif Sayani, a junior from Pakistan, who predicted a stir when students return next week.

Administrators concede that the new process could lower undergraduate minority enrollment from the current 17.8 percent, but they said they hope it won’t, given expanded efforts to attract and keep minority students.

``We must continue to admit a diverse student body, not only for the benefit of students, but also for the good of the campus and for the good of the economy in an ever more diverse world,″ said Chancellor David K. Scott.

Under the new process, candidates with the highest grade point averages and SAT scores typically will be admitted, and candidates with the lowest grades and test scores typically will be rejected.

But in a middle group, equal to about 30 percent of applicants, a point system will be used to decide who is admitted.

The point system ignores SAT scores _ the achievement test has been criticized as unfair to minorities _ and instead gives a maximum of 75 percent weight to grades and 25 percent weight to state residency, personal achievement and potential contributions to diversity on campus.

Administration spokeswoman Kay Scanlan said the factors can potentially boost minority applicants, such as the rule that up to 5 percent of an applicant’s points can come from attending a low-income high school or belonging to a racial or ethnic minority.

Overall, about two-thirds of the expected 21,000 applicants will be invited to attend. The existing cap of 25 percent on out-of-state undergraduates will stay in place, Scanlan said.

Jennifer Teixeira, a Hispanic sophomore, said she is pleased with the new emphasis on income.

``If you’re at a lower income school, it doesn’t really matter what background you come from,″ she said. ``You’re still going to be disadvantaged.″

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