4-year math admissions requirement a barrier for low-income, minority students

Impact of The California State University proposal to mandate a fourth-year quantitative course for college admission
By: | Issue: October, 2019
September 19, 2019
Unsplash: Antoine Dautry

Officials are aiming to improve graduation rates with a newly proposed admissions requirement for The California State University. To be accepted to any CSU campus, a student will have to complete a fourth quantitative reasoning course—essentially an additional math or math-related course, including physics, economics or personal finance.

The news has some worried that the requirement could prove to be a barrier to low-income or minority students who may not have immediate access to fourth-year quantitative classes at their high schools.

However, there will be several components to ensure that no potential students are left behind, says Marquita Grenot-Scheyer, assistant vice chancellor for educator preparation and public school programs at CSU. “The call for additional [quantitative] learning is more focused once students get to us—not that we would become more critical in our admissions,” she says. “We will keep careful watch of any changes in admissions profile.” In other words, if a student is missing the fourth-year requirement, the university will not automatically dismiss the application.

The proposal, which as of press time needed approval from the university’s board of trustees, is an expansion of a bridge course program already offered by CSU, the University of California and participating school districts, including Los Angeles Unified. The requirement would not go into place until 2026, giving districts time to hire more teachers and develop pertinent courses.

“My team is working on how we can expand capacity and high school partners in the bridge program in anticipation that the proposal is passed,” says Grenot-Scheyer.

More quantitative math skills, please

CSU officials aren’t the only proponents of more quantitative learning.

Earlier this year, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics recommended continuous four-year mathematics pathways, so all students study mathematics each year, with two to three years of a common shared pathway focusing on what the organization refers to as “essential concepts” (nctm.org/change).

“Strong evidence suggests that students need more mathematics to be successful in STEM areas, as well as an increased presence of quantitative reasoning and statistics in non-STEM careers,” says Robert Berry, NCTM president. “The continued study of mathematics and statistics also supports students being critical of data presented to them every day.” 

The bridge courses, Berry adds, are a more promising alternative for students to gain these skills, rather than traditional remedial classes during their freshman year of college.