Open admissions - American Education
A policy (often called open enrollment) that admits applicants to a school, college or university on a first-come first-served basis, regardless of the student’s previous academic performance, financial status or other traditional requirements for admission. However, most four-year colleges and universities with open admissions policies do require successful graduation from high school for admission. Long a tradition of community colleges, whose role is to serve the community at large, open admissions policies were adopted by many comprehensive state university systems after World War II, when the G.I. Bill of Rights first popularized higher education. The University of California drew up educational master plans for open enrollment in 1948 and 1955, creating a three-tier system of higher education. The lowest tier of junior or community colleges, with responsibility for technical curricula and job training, admitted all graduates of accredited California high schools. The state colleges offered liberal arts degrees and advanced occupational training in fields requiring a four-year degree and were open to all California high school graduates finishing in the top one-third of their classes. And the University of California was automatically open to all California high school graduates finishing in the top 12.5% of their classes.
Protests in the 1950s and 1960s by civil rights activists and students forced public colleges and universities to rethink their multi-tier, open enrollment policies. In 1970, the City University of New York expanded open enrollment policies to all 10 of its four-year colleges as well as its seven community colleges. For several years, minority protesters and civil rights activists had demanded that City University compensate young people from the poorest socioeconomic groups for perceived educational injustices that left many New York City high school graduates only semiliterate and doomed to lives of unemployment. The community at large, the reasoning went, had been responsible for low-quality education of public schools in low socioeconomic neighborhoods by refusing to fund such schools adequately. By then restricting admission to public colleges to the academically qualified, the community was, in effect, restricting free, public higher education to predominantly white, middle-class students from better quality neighborhood schools.
City University responded by abandoning its two-tier arrangement and adopting open enrollment at its four-year as well as two-year institutions, thereby guaranteeing all graduates of New York City high schools and two-year colleges the right to admission to the four-year colleges. In an effort to ensure equality of educational outcome as well as educational access, the university attempted to compensate academically deprived students with remediation programs, special education, supportive counseling and other special programs. It also redesigned its curriculum to include less demanding courses and courses of special interest to minority students. After an enthusiastic enrollment rush and some initial successes, the program foundered. Dropout rates soared; graduation rates fell to 22%; and academic quality declined to one of the lowest levels in American higher education. Like midwestern universities with open enrollment, City University became a revolving door for inadequately prepared students.
By the beginning of the 2000s, the university reversed course and returned to a two-tier system, still guaranteeing entry to every high school graduate to at least a community college, but raising academic requirements for admission to its four-year colleges and denying entry to the four-year colleges to students who required remedial work or were otherwise academically unqualified. It abandoned affirmative- action programs that gave unqualified students from minority groups preference over better qualified white applicants. Along with the abandonment of open enrollment came the recognition by city educators that colleges and universities were incapable of playing a major role in compensatory education of the socioeconomically deprived. With that recognition, leaders in higher education placed responsibility for compensatory education back in the hands of elementary and secondary public school systems, which subsequently began undertaking reforms of education in their domains.