Originally created 02/24/01

Students encounter admission hurdles



A small percentage of high school seniors throughout the state are finding out the hard way that admission requirements to the University System of Georgia have gotten tougher.

Board of Regents member Tim Shelnut guessed that 50 to 100 Georgia high school seniors did not know that the number of English, math, history and science classes needed for admission into Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Georgia and other state-run higher education institutions has increased.

"This isn't just a Richmond County problem," Mr. Shelnut said. "This affects students in Columbia County and some students from other parts of the state."

The admission requirements were officially changed in 1996 and gradually phased in over the past four years. This past fall, the Board of Regents sent out letters to every high school in the state reminding school officials the changes would be fully implemented this summer.

But some students and their parents said they didn't know about the changes until they got their rejection slips from the University of Georgia and other schools.

State Rep. Sue Burmeister said she first heard there was a problem for three or four students at Westside High School last month.

Leonard "Pete" Fletcher, attorney for the Richmond County Board of Education, said there are 11 local high school seniors (two at the Academy of Richmond County, two at Westside and seven at A.R. Johnson) who are in limbo, awaiting an appeal on whether they qualify for admission to the Medical College of Georgia, the University of Georgia or Georgia Tech.

Originally, several school officials said, there were as many as 30 students in Richmond County who fell into the same category. But, Mr. Fletcher said, some of the students chose other universities, some chose to take an extra class their senior year, and others, having scored too low on the SAT, simply did not qualify.

"If a student was told to take a math class his junior year and then dropped the class, I don't know how you blame that on the guidance counselor," Mr. Fletcher said.

Mr. Shelnut said the Board of Regents, which oversees state colleges and universities, is trying to remedy the situation by making admission decisions on these students on a case-by-case basis.

Andrew Jefferson, president of the Richmond County Board of Education, said there's nothing to gain by blaming guidance counselors, regents or parents. He said the important thing is to make sure this sort of mix-up doesn't repeat itself next year.

Fellow school board member Helen Minchew agrees.

"We need to do a better job when these kids enter ninth grade. They really need to determine what course they want to take, and then they need to be told exactly what they need to take," she said. "Parents need to be told, too. They didn't know what they considered academic. Certain kids brought it on themselves I know, but there are other kids who are innocent."

Reach Justin Martin at (706) 823-3552.