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Direct Admissions Conference

The conference will be held at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on Dec. 6, 2019 at the iHotel and Conference Center, 1900 South First Street, Champaign, IL, 61820.

A direct admissions system side-steps the typical college admissions process with students proactively admitted based on a data match between K-12 schools and postsecondary institutions. Students, parents, and high schools receive letters indicating a student has been admitted to a set of institutions and outlines steps for how students can “claim their place” using a common and free application. Typically, all students are admitted to open-access institutions, and students who surpass a pre-identified threshold (based on academic performance such as GPA, ACT/SAT, class rank, or a combination of measures) are automatically admitted to selective institutions. As a universal policy, direct admissions holds the potential to reduce equity gaps, provide important college-going signals to high school students, alleviate potential access gaps for rural and urban populations, and eliminate the need for extensive financial and cultural capital to navigate the college application process. This policy draws upon rich underpinnings in behavioral economics and may change the life course of individuals by offering postsecondary opportunities. Direct admissions is also a low-cost policy compared to other interventions seeking to increase college access and equity (such as traditional grant-aid programs, mentoring, or wrap-around services). This policy can be used to encourage college-going among important populations (such as low-income, minority, first generation, and returning adult students) or focus on increasing participation in broad workforce-related categories (e.g., STEM majors).

In 2015, Idaho adopted the nation’s first direct admissions program, admitting all high school graduates to a set of the state’s public community colleges and universities. By leveraging data capacity and proactively signaling college opportunities to students and families, Idaho reversed declining postsecondary enrollments and out-of-state migration to provide the opportunity of a college education to more of its citizens. Idaho has seen remarkable positive outcomes, including: an 88% increase in applications, a 3.1% increase in overall enrollment, a 6.7% increase in the state’s college-going rate, and a 3% reduction in students migrating out of state for college. In addition to Idaho, South Dakota began proactive admissions for the high school class of 2018. In 2019, the Illinois General Assembly passed a law to develop a pilot program to automatically admit high-performing Illinois high-school graduates to targeted public institutions of higher education. 

With support from the Joyce Foundation, we will convene a national meeting of researchers, postsecondary education leaders, and policymakers to discuss direct admissions as an education policy and its potential to increase equity in college access. We will also release a new report on direct admissions that reviews the public policy landscape, rigorously evaluates direct admissions programs, and provides salient public policy recommendations for states considering direct admissions and similar college-access policies. The conference will also support coalition-building and strategic planning toward the adoption of these policies in attendees’ states. Policymakers and agency representatives from states that currently operate these polices will be invited to speak regarding their systems and to share early outcomes from these programs. Representatives from states considering direct admissions, nationally prominent education researchers, and education foundation partners will also be part of the program.

We hope that you will be able to join us to discuss the potential of direct admissions December 6, 2019 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Click the registration link below.

Conference Organizer: Jennifer A. Delaney, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Generous support provided by: The Joyce Foundation