Response to state audit: UC report, Berkeley admissions stats, FAQ

The University of California earlier this week released a detailed report on UC admissions, finances and transparency.

report coverThe UC publication, Straight Talk on Hot-Button Issuescounters assertions about the university made by the California State Auditor’s office in an report released in March.

The university took the unusual step of issuing an in-depth response to the state findings “because it strongly believed the state audit consistently failed to consider key facts and data during the audit process,” UC wrote in a March 29 press release.

Straight Talk on Hot-Button Issues provides data demonstrating how the university’s policies and practices favor California resident students. The UC report also affirms that the university has always adhered to the Master Plan for Higher Education by offering spaces to all eligible California students who apply to UC. It also discusses how its stewardship of public funds is equitable and transparent.

This year the university will expand its commitment to Californians by enrolling 5,000 more in-state undergraduates than in 2014-15. It plans to enroll an additional 5,000 California undergraduates in the following two years.

See a chart on UC Berkeley admissions statistics and another on GPAs by residency.

The FAQ below addresses some key concerns.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between all of the types of GPAs?

  • Capped and weighted GPA: More rigorous courses result in a “bump” in GPA — a B+ in an AP history class receives more grade points than a B+ in a standard history class. Only certain rigorous courses are eligible for this “bump.”
  • Uncapped and weighted GPA: More rigorous courses result in a “bump” in GPA — a B+ in an AP history class receives more grade points than a B+ in a standard history class. All honors/AP/IB/college level courses are considered.
  • Unweighted GPA: All letter grades are equivalent — a B+ in an AP history class receives as many grade points as a B+ in a standard history class.

But doesn’t the audit chart titled “In recent academic years, most campuses have admitted domestic nonresident undergraduates with lower weighted grade point averages than residents they admitted” show Berkeley as admitting out-of-state students with lower GPAs?

The audit chart shows capped weighted GPAs. One of three measures of GPA, this measure deflates out-of-state students’ GPAs, as it doesn’t account for all of their honors/AP/IB/college-level courses. While only this GPA was analyzed by the audit, UC Berkeley considers uncapped weighted GPA and unweighted GPA in their file review.

How important is GPA in determining an offer of admission?

UC Berkeley uses GPA in addition to 13 other factors in each application file. “Holistic review” refers to the process of evaluating applications in their entirety by professionally trained readers. Every application is read at least twice by two professionally trained readers, and many applications are read three times.

The admission holistic review reflects our readers’ thoughtful consideration of the full spectrum of the applicant’s qualifications, based on all evidence provided in the application, and viewed in the context of the applicant’s academic and personal circumstances and the overall strength of the Berkeley applicant pool.

Using a broad concept of merit, readers evaluate academic work; personal qualities like leadership ability, character, tenacity, initiative or intellectual independence; likely contributions to campus; performance on standard tests; and other measures of achievement including extracurricular, volunteer or employment experience. This holistic review enables us to admit a diverse undergraduate class representing 53 states/commonwealths and 74 countries, with 17 percent who are first-generation college-going and 65 percent who receive financial aid.

The audit mentions “compare favorably.” What does that mean?

“Compare favorably” is a guidance for admissions offices to ensure that out-of-state students are just as — if not more — prepared to succeed as in-state students. The audit expresses preference for a Master Plan definition approach that was established in the 1960s. UC Berkeley is following the University of California Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools definition of compare favorably that was passed in 2011. This definition factors in GPA and SAT/ACT as well as our other holistic review measures, and also evaluates performance once these students are on campus.