Spreads of Direct Admissions, State by State

The Universities of Wisconsin have introduced a direct admissions initiative at 10 of the system’s 13 universities, joining the trend of state higher education systems adopting this experimental practice. Under this program, high school students in Wisconsin who meet minimum academic requirements based on grade-point average and class ranking will receive automatic letters of acceptance starting from July next year. This move is part of a broader wave of state higher education systems, with Georgia and Indiana also implementing direct admissions programs.

Direct admissions eliminate the traditional application process. Instead, students or counselors compile a portfolio of academic information, including areas of interest, geographical preferences, grades, and test scores. Colleges then use this portfolio to decide whether to extend an admissions offer. Advocates argue that bypassing the application process removes a barrier for many students who might not otherwise consider college, making it a simple and affordable approach to addressing enrollment declines.

The impact of direct admissions on enrollment remains uncertain, as it is still in its early stages. Initial experiments in states like Idaho and South Dakota have shown small but solid enrollment returns. The trend is gaining traction, with more state systems likely to adopt direct admissions in the coming years. Critics argue that it is mostly for open-access institutions, while supporters see it as a marketing tool for the value and accessibility of a college degree, especially for those least likely to pursue higher education.

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