Open Admissions at CUNY: Review

University Testing

Changing the Odds: Open Admissions and the Life Chances of the Disadvantaged, by David Lavin and David Hyllegard, carefully examines the impact of what they call the most ambitious effort ever made to promote equality of opportunity in American higher education, the open-admissions experiment at the City University of New York (CUNY). From 1970 through 1976, the seventeen-campus, two hundred thousand student CUNY system guaranteed admission to all high school graduates. Test scores were not considered in the admissions process. All those with at least an 80 average in college preparatory courses or who ranked in the top half of their high school classes were deemed qualified for a four-year college. Everyone else was eligible for community college enrollment.

The initial results of the new policy were not surprising: the size of the CUNY freshman class grew by 75%, and the number of Black and Hispanic enrollees quadrupled at the system s four-year colleges. But the book devotes most of its analysis to the long-term implications, relying on detailed survey research to track the education, employment and life histories of the new college students. From every perspective, open admissions was a success: graduation rates in low-income and minority communities soared; the students who participated in the program earned much more than those who did not; and many of the negative impacts of cumulative disadvantage were overcome. The authors conclude that all these benefits came without sacrificing academic standards.

. Yale Univ. Press, (800) 987-7323. $35.00.