A new formula for college success


The Board of Trustees at The University of Akron has approved a new rule governing admissions that uses a uniquely tailored formula to predict first-year college success for students currently in high school. UA admissions officers will use the formula to determine which applicants to admit and which applicants to steer to community colleges for their first college experience. High school students, parents and guidance counselors can also use the formula to better plan for the future.

What's unique about it? The formula is based on research on former UA student performance to determine the influence of high school grades and standardized test scores on success in the first year of study at UA. It turns out that the very best predictor of a UA freshman's success is high school grade point average (GPA).  In fact, the high school GPA is 80 percent better than an ACT score in predicting first-year college success.

Thus, the hard and fast rules applied by some colleges, like requiring a certain ACT score for admission won't apply at UA.

“As part of their admission policies, many universities traditionally have set minimum requirements for high school GPA and for ACT scores,” explains Richard Steiner, Ph.D., professor of statistics at UA, who helped devise the formula.  “If an applicant’s high school GPA is below the minimum, or if the applicant’s ACT score is below the minimum, that applicant will not be accepted for admission. The new policy at the University of Akron breaks with that tradition.”

Steiner explains that the statistical model behind the formula was built to predict students’ first year college GPA from their high school GPA and their ACT scores. The model was constructed based on historical data from recent first-year UA students. Based on their predicted first-year college GPAs, applicants are guided into one of three pathways to academic success.

Students predicted to have first-year college GPAs of 2.50 or higher are considered “college ready." Those with predicted college GPAs from 2.00 up to 2.50 are considered “emergent." Such students will receive special student support services to help get them on the road to success at the university.

Applicants with predicted first-year college GPAs that are less than 2.00 are deemed “preparatory.” These students are not academically prepared for the rigors of university studies, and it is recommended that these students begin their college careers at a community college to enhance their chances of success and reduce their potential debt.

“The beauty of the model-based approach to determining admission status is that it is flexible,” says Steiner. “For example, students with very good high school GPAs, but who did not test well on the ACT, are likely to succeed in college. However, under the traditional policy, such students may be denied admission, because their ACT scores are below the minimum requirement. The new model-based policy considers both high school GPA and ACT together, and would, we believe, correctly place these students on a pathway to academic success.”

Associate Professor of Law William D. Rich, who serves as Chair of the Faculty Senate at UA, agrees that the new admissions policy is a more rational and flexible approach for students:  “Some students who do well in high school and would succeed in college do not perform well on college entrance examinations such as the ACT and SAT. The new policy will allow a high GPA to offset a low ACT score and vice versa.  The students we admit under this new policy are more likely to experience academic success at UA, to graduate on time, and accumulate less debt in the process.”

Media contact: Eileen Korey, 330-972-8589 or korey@uakron.edu