Tougher standards: High school seniors prepare for new requirements

Seniors at Campbell County High School have never had any difficulty in getting accepted to Northern Kentucky University. That is, until now.

The Board of Regents unanimously voted in July to implement a new set of admission standards for NKU. In its 36-year history, the university has always had an open admissions policy. These stricter standards will be in effect by Fall 2005.

First-time freshmen applicants will be required to have a minimum ACT composite score of 19. Beginning fall 2006, the requirement will be raised to 20.

“It’s mixed emotions for me,” said Doug Neuspickle, guidance chairman at Campbell County High School.

“I can see where (NKU is) wanting to go. I think that there’s nothing wrong with it – to become more selective in admissions.

“But also, I do have a fear for those students who may bloom late.”

Campbell County High School, located in Alexandria, provides the largest source of freshmen for NKU each year.

Neuspickle knew last year that these new standards would probably be coming, and started telling juniors about the potential change. He said that students are now starting to realize that they need to prepare for college earlier in their high school careers – by getting good grades and taking the right classes.

His department is also helping students be more prepared for college by attempting to improve ACT scores. Neuspickle said that Campbell County High School allows students to take ACT prep courses and also offers many ACT workshop programs outside of school hours.

The average ACT composite score at Campbell County High School is 20.6, compared to NKU’s fall 2003 first-time freshmen overall average of 20.1.

The admission standards also will require minimum ACT English, math and reading subject scores of 18, a high school grade point average of 2.0 or class ranking of 60 percent or above, and completion of the Kentucky Pre-College Curriculum.

Neuspickle said he is heavily stressing the required completion of the Kentucky Pre-College Curriculum to students, and is most concerned about this factor.

“I don’t foresee (the new admission standards) altering a lot of students’ plans,” Neuspickle said.

However, he acknowledged that some of his students looking to attend NKU will not make the cut. In fact, approximately 240, or 12 percent, of the fall 2003 freshmen class would not have met the new standards.

The university will continue to allow some students who do not meet the regular admission standards to be admitted conditionally, and require them to take remedial courses.

Students with three or more deficiencies will not be considered for admission unless they have a high school grade point average of 3.0 or a class rank in the top 30 percent.

University officials say that they see the biggest problems with students in this category. Students with three or more deficiencies have the lowest retention rates. Only about 4 percent of students in this group who entered NKU in 1998 graduated by 2003.

NKU will offer a pre-enrollment remediation program, the NKU Academy, where students in this group can reduce their deficiencies. Completion of this summer program will allow otherwise ineligible students to qualify for admission.

Neuspickle also noted that because of the dual admission partnership between NKU and Gateway Community and Technical College, students who don’t quite meet the requirements will have a “safety net.”

This partnership allows students to earn an associate of the arts or sciences degree at Gateway and then enter NKU as a junior to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

The projected decrease in enrollment due to the new admission standards equates to a loss of $1.3 million in tuition.

According to university officials, this potential headcount impact can easily be mitigated by using the NKU Academy, improving retention rates, and by recruiting more graduate and transfer students.

The university also plans to create partnerships with high schools to raise preparation levels. Neuspickle said NKU has formed a good partnership with Campbell County High School.

“We have an excellent relationship with NKU,” he said.

NKU President James Votruba said that this move is not designed to limit access to the university. He said the problem is that too many students enter NKU with a very small chance of success.

“They leave here with nothing but debt,” Votruba said. “That’s not right.”

“(The new admission standards) will make NKU a more respected college,” said Campbell County High School senior Matt Donohoe.

“If someone’s not going to work hard to get into college, they’re not going to work hard in college.”