Every few years we debate raising entrance requirements to enter the state's universities, and then nothing happens.

Recently, New Mexico State University regents voted to raise admissions standards from a 2.5 GPA to 2.75. University of New Mexico, which inched up from 2.25 to 2.5 in the last few years, is making noises about following suit.

This would be good for everybody, but most importantly, it would be good for students.

For years, our institutions of higher education have been victims of their own successful recruiting. "Register for college," the sirens sing. "It's your ticket to future success."

Not if you're unprepared. Every year hundreds of young people who fared poorly in high school and slipped under the bar to enter college struggle with the material and drop out after a year or two — often with student loans attached like a ball and chain. How is this serving them on their future path?

Numbers tell the story. According to NMSU, half its students entering with less than a 2.75 GPA will drop out the first year, and 85 percent won't graduate in six years. The same discussion is going on all over the country because studies show that high school grades are the best indicator of college success.

The real wonder is that this has gone on so long. It reflects denial up and down the line.

Kids who put sports, video games, friends and other distractions ahead of their studies expect to slide through college the way they slid through high school, and low entrance requirements reinforce that idea.

Parents delude themselves that maybe maturity will set in, miracles will happen, and their kids will morph into scholars.

Universities brag about increasing enrollments in one breath and in the next breath complain about the expense of remedial education for students who are unprepared for college work.

An argument that always stopped change was that higher admissions standards would fall more heavily on minority students.

NMSU did two things to change the discussion. First, they had data showing that the higher bar would have affected just 1 percent of last year's minority freshmen. Second, they have several alternatives for students.

If kids turn their grades around during the last two years of high school, NMSU will consider that. If they have so-so grades but an impressive ACT or SAT score, NMSU factors that in. Kids who later realize they really want to go to college can enter NMSU's Guaranteed Pathway, which joins community college with campus life.

We would hope that personal circumstances — kids working full- or part-time jobs to help their families — would also enter admissions decisions.

It's not an easy discussion. NMSU has taken a small but significant step.

Recently, I wrote about a lawsuit that asks the court to declare unconstitutional the state law requiring closed primary elections because it denies independents the right to vote. Last week state Secretary of State Dianna Duran declined to defend the constitutionality of the law. But Attorney General Gary King filed a motion to intervene and defend the law's constitutionality because of "the Secretary of State's refusal to do so."

Albuquerque attorney J. Edward Hollington and plaintiff David Crum, an independent, think Duran's response indicates they're on the right track.

During the recent primary, 199 of 341 offices on the ballot were decided because only one party put up a candidate. That means more than half of offices were decided without input from 240,741 independents.

 

Sherry Robinson is a New Mexico journalist who began her career in 1976 and has served as assistant business editor and columnist with the Albuquerque Journal, editor of New Mexico Business Weekly and business editor of the Albuquerque Tribune.