The Great Admissions Redesign - Lumina Foundation

Last Updated: 03/01/2024

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Overview

The Great Admissions Redesign is a grant-funded initiative of Lumina Foundation that responds to the evolving landscape of college admissions. In February 2024, Lumina announced the winners of its grant competition challenge to revolutionize the admissions process and increase accessibility to higher education for all students, particularly those not admitted in proportion to their shares of the U.S. population. Applicants were required to use criteria established in the Challenge, including a commitment to ensuring fair outcomes for Black and brown students, simplicity, and innovation.  Lumina awarded $3.1 million in implementation and planning grants.

Implementation Grants (3)

  • Illinois Board of Higher Education—Awarded $750,000 to directly admit community college transfer students and high school seniors statewide to Illinois universities.
  • California State University System—Awarded $750,000 to automate admissions to the CSU system and support verified transcript submission through California's college and career readiness platform.
  • career readiness platform (CaliforniaColleges.edu)
  • Northern Arizona University—Awarded $750,000 to expand its universal admissions program with nine Arizona community college districts.

Planning Grants (4)

  • Louisiana Board of Regents—Awarded $300,000 to prepare to automate admissions for students using Louisiana's universal transfer pathway and for high school seniors.
  • Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board—Awarded $250,000 to develop direct admissions pathways for Texas students using the state's college and career readiness platform (MyTexasFuture.org)
  • Washington Student Achievement Council—Awarded $150,000 to prepare a proactive admissions process integrating financial aid eligibility.
  • Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education—Awarded $150,000 to align existing initiatives toward a simplified admissions process for Kentucky students and to consider the use of AI in admissions offices to alleviate capacity issues.

All these grants support initiatives that streamline admissions procedures, reduce barriers to admissions, promote inclusivity, and work toward enhancing the transparency and accessibility of the admissions process while addressing the needs of diverse student populations.

Background

The admissions initiative responds to four key issues that have converged to create a window of opportunity for transformational change in admissions systems to remove barriers to college access.

  • Enrollment declines. Bachelor’s degree programs are losing students at astounding rates. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, bachelor’s-granting institutions have lost 5.7% of students ages 24 and younger, representing 663,000 students, and an additional 570,000 adults 25 and over. Undergraduate enrollment decreases were especially pronounced among students of color: 2022 alone saw a 4.2% decrease in Black student enrollment, 2% decrease in Native student enrollment, and 0.5% decrease in Hispanic and Latino student enrollment. These patterns will worsen when the long-anticipated demographic enrollment cliff hits in 2025.
  • Test-optional admissions. Test-optional policies have become the norm: more than 80% of colleges do not require the SAT or ACT for admissions. While this creates opportunities for students, particularly students of color, one challenge of test-optional admissions policies is the resulting drop in prospective high school student information available to college and university admissions officers. This complicates the job of admissions and recruitment practitioners, as they have to find different ways to reach students.
  • Race-conscious admissions. Many colleges and universities are reconsidering their application requirements and review processes following U.S. Supreme Court rulings limiting race-conscious admissions. As colleges and universities respond, they must avoid placing increased burdens on prospective students.
  • Impact on admissions officers. In this challenging environment, many admissions offices are underwater, experiencing major pressures and expectations. Data from the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources revealed that admissions department turnover rates are among the highest in higher education.

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