With low acceptance rates, SDSU enters new chapter

by Brody Burns

Artwork courtesy of staff artist Melodie Lapot
Artwork courtesy of staff artist Melodie Lapot

Montezuma Mesa is in the midst of a drastic change. San Diego State is overhauling its reputation as a perpetual spring break school, a mere mainstay on the Playboy Magazine party radar and a basketball-crazed campus. SDSU is challenging many Ivy League schools with a paltry acceptance rate near 10 percent, and the academic standing of its incoming students only continues to bloom. Being an Aztec has a new meaning in the eyes of the public and every student — whether past, present or future — stands to benefit.

Last fall, SDSU received nearly 60,000 undergraduate applications for the fall semester. Counting both transfers and incoming freshman, only 6,174 undergraduate students were admitted, which puts the acceptance rate at just more than 10 percent. Moreover, the GPA and SAT scores for the incoming class, 3.78 and 1148 respectively, are the highest in SDSU history. The class starting in Fall 2009 had an average incoming GPA of 3.47, and an SAT score of 1039.

Scores are continuing to increase, which is inevitably making admission into SDSU a more highly valued achievement. This upward trend is a direct consequence of receiving more and more applications for fewer available spots, which only bolsters the competition. The result? A radical improvement among SDSU’s future pools of applicants.

There’s a stark reality with these statistics. Ivy League schools such as Cornell, Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania all reported higher acceptance rates than SDSU last year. Even notable public universities had higher acceptance rates than SDSU — University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (29.9 percent), UT-Austin (45.9 percent), the University of Wisconsin-Madison (54.62 percent) and the University of Iowa (78 percent).

Acceptance rates alone do not measure the prestige of a university, but they are indicative of the type of students who are seeking an education there. This plays directly into the public’s perception of the value a degree from a particular university.

These acceptance statistics are directly related to larger systemic factors. Prevailing economic conditions, the cost of pursuing higher education, budget cuts, overall increases in educational scores and the number of applicants for these schools are all elements of the bigger picture.

At SDSU specifically, the incoming student body is much different than in recent history. The quality of education among incoming students is clearly improving. This fact alone will inevitably result in an improvement of the educational value of a degree from SDSU, which thereby enhances the value of every Aztec’s education.

SDSU President Stephen L. Weber has watched this perception change, and said, “I think this is a great university and I don’t think it was perceived to be as good as it is, and in recent years, thanks to a lot of people working very hard, we’ve begun to get the recognition it deserves and that is very gratifying.”

Many of these admissions limitations are a result of California’s budgetary cuts to the California StateUniversity system, which will likely slash an additional $500 million this year.

There may, however, be a small silver lining in the massive budget cuts: Heightened competition means only the most deserving students, as decided by an established admissions criterion, will be admitted to pursue a degree. Then, as these graduates impact the post-college world, they will reinforce this overriding perception of what it means to be an Aztec. A mutual dependence exists — the education validates the student, and the student reflects the educational offering of the school. As the quality of incoming students improves, naturally these other values do as well.

SDSU has long been perceived as a party haven, a perception supported by drug busts, “undie” runs and a hungover student body after weekends of ceaseless parties. But change is happening. As the incoming classes improve, so does SDSU as a whole. In last year’s All-University Convocation Weber said, “The reputation of and respect for San Diego State has grown.”

Aztecs, the days of the lazy SDSU student are dead. With the budget crisis and the evolving admissions standards of this university, we have inherited the responsibility to meet heightened expectations. Each incoming class adds prestige to our degrees, but we must take it upon ourselves to improve the worth of our diplomas from within. It’s time to trash old habits and make being an Aztec something to take pride in.

—Brody Burns is seeking a master’s in business administration.

—The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.