School trustees ask SDSU to keep preferences for local students

The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education Tuesday night unanimously approved a resolution asking San Diego State University to maintain admission preferences for local students for one more year, and study alternatives to eliminating the policy in the future.

The university announced recently it would end a long-standing policy of favoring qualified high school seniors in its local service area, which is south of Highway 56. Before 2002, the service area was the entire county.

Because of budget cuts related to California’s fiscal crisis, the university was asked to reduce freshman admissions by 4,600 for the 2010-11 school year, and the school responded by ending the policy of local preferences.

“Kids have been working diligently with a fixed set of agreements and in the last 30 days it’s been taken away from them,” said Dan Powell, who told board members he was a concerned parent.

SDSU created a “double jeopardy” for students in the southern half of San Diego County because it is the only campus in the California State University system to drop admission preferences for local students, Powell said.

Board member John Lee Evans said the situation will mean fewer educational opportunities for disadvantaged families.

“The cost of sending someone away to a four-year school is very high,” Evans said.

According to the university, freshman applicants from the local area will still receive preference over someone with a similar grade point average and test results who resides north of Highway 56, in essence reducing the role of San Diego residency to a tiebreaker.

SDSU received 56,232 applications last year, with only 19 percent from the local service area. In the past 11 years, an average of 37 percent of freshmen were from the local service area.

The school said the grade point average of this year’s local freshman was 3.41, while first-year students from outside the area had a 3.81 GPA.

Evans said the district should deliver the resolution to the SDSU leadership. He also encouraged district students to continue to apply to the university until the dispute is resolved.