‘Coalition’ Expands Eligibility Criteria for Shared Admissions Application

The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success has expanded its membership criteria, the group announced in an email to college counselors on Monday. The new standards could allow a more-diverse array of colleges to start using the new shared admission application as early as next year.

In an interview with The Chronicle, Annie Reznik, the organization’s executive director, said representatives from several member institutions had expressed concerns about “gaps” in the group’s requirements. Previously, for instance, only colleges with a six-year graduation rate of at least 70 percent could join the club, which factored out many institutions serving large numbers of low-income and underrepresented students.

Now, a graduation rate of at least 60 percent is listed among “minimum qualifying criteria,” and a graduation rate of at least 70 percent is listed under “membership eligibility.” A college that graduates fewer than 70 percent of students still could be eligible for membership, however, if it meets other benchmarks for access and affordability.

In short, the new rules seem to allow for greater flexibility, permitting colleges to join if they meet the standards in just two of three categories (access, affordability, success). Yet some of the requirements (“percentage of enrolled low-income students [Pell] equal to or above 20%”) are more precise than others (“meets full need,” “have affordable in-state tuition”).

The revised criteria, Ms. Reznik said, recognize “schools that have highly diverse populations, and are a great example of providing access, affordability, and success for a diverse pool of students.” She also said the changes would allow the group to expand its geographic diversity.

On Monday, Rafael S. Figueroa, dean of college guidance at the Albuquerque Academy, expressed mixed feelings about the changes. “The membership criteria are pretty well thought out,” he wrote in an email, “and do promote standards that are in the best interest of low-income students.” Yet he wondered about the following notation in the new guidelines: “If a state has no qualifying four-year public universities, its public university with the highest metrics on these standards is automatically invited.”

Mr. Figueroa wrote: “The footnote is a little disheartening, indicating that, in the end, getting representation from every state is more important than holding to the strong standards the coalition just delineated.”

The coalition now includes 95 colleges, 48 of which are using the application during the 2016-17 admissions cycle, the platform’s inaugural year. The new requirements will take effect in January.

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