Preserving Access to the CSU

After four years of advocacy, over 100 student, community, civil rights, higher education, K-12, and legislative leaders successfully ended threats to equitable admissions at the California State University.

Driven by claims of improved student retention and completion outcomes, the California State University (CSU) Chancellor’s Office introduced a proposal in 2019 that would have required first-time freshmen applicants to complete an additional year of Quantitative Reasoning (QR) in high school as a condition for admission. After four long years of advocating for equity in admissions, the CSU Board of Trustees officially abandoned the proposal.

A Threat to Equitable Admissions

By adding an extra year of quantitative reasoning to California’s A-G curriculum – which determines eligibility to the state’s public universities – the CSU would have created an access barrier for rural, low-income, Black, and Latinx students. These students, who are already disproportionately underrepresented in higher education, may not have had access to the necessary resources or opportunities to complete this additional year of coursework. As a result, they would have been less likely to meet the requirements for admission to the CSU, further perpetuating a cycle of racial and ethnic inequity in accessing higher education.

Key Facts:

An impact study by RTI International found that this proposed change in admissions
would reduce eligibility by:

How We Won

In 2019, when the CSU proposed this admission barrier, The Campaign, along with The Education Trust-West and Just Equations, sounded the alarm and commissioned a report to examine how increasing admissions requirements with an additional year of mathematics or science would impact eligibility rates. A powerful coalition of over 100 state, business, civil rights, community organizations, school boards and administrators voiced their concerns along with 500 students across California. Together, they wrote opinion articles, mobilized at Trustee meetings, and galvanized key leaders, including Superintendent Tony Thurmond, Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis, and Assembly Higher Education Chair Jose Medina.

“I share the goal of increasing our standards and preparing our students to succeed in college, but in doing so we must engage all partners, address our teacher shortage crisis, and ensure we are not creating additional barriers for low-income students of color to pursue higher education,” said Superintendent Thurmond.

By November 2019, education advocates and coalition partners called on CSU Board of Trustees to abandon the fourth-year quantitative reasoning proposal, arguing that there was no causal evidence that an additional quantitative reasoning course in high school is connected to college retention or completion, but there was evidence that this requirement would exacerbate inequities for Black, Latinx, and low-income communities.

The CSU Board of Trustees finally agreed to conduct an independent analysis on the impact this proposal would have on student access and success after much public outcry. The analysis concluded in 2022 and found that requiring an additional course may not contribute to college readiness and success, recommending that the CSU system pivot away from the proposal.

In a hard-fought win after four years of advocacy, the CSU Board of Trustees officially voted against the proposal in January 2023, cementing the system’s promise as “The People’s University.”