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Changes to business admissions could hurt UW transfer students

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Competition for an acceptance letter from the Wisconsin School of Business is already high—the college is one of the top 30 business schools in the nation, according to Businessweek’s 2016 rankings. But some fear changes to direct admissions and credit limits on applications could make the competition extra difficult for transfer students.

In January, the Wisconsin School of Business Curriculum Committee voted unanimously to increase the number of direct admit students for Fall 2017.

These direct admit students—an increase of 200 direct admits compared to Fall 2016—are accepted to the business school simultaneously with acceptance to university as a whole and begin specific classes as freshmen.

“One reason for us to increase the number of direct admits to the business school is for us to stay competitive with our peers,” Associate Dean of Undergraduate Program at the WBS Joann Peck said. “We lose top undergraduate business students due to uncertainty whether they will be admitted after their freshman year.”

In a previous interview with The Daily Cardinal, Chancellor Rebecca Blank echoed the need to stay competitive and added that UW-Madison is, “quite unusual compared to our peers in that many of them [direct] admit pretty much the whole class of the freshman year.”

Brooke Evans, a transfer student and representative of the Associated Students of Madison, thinks this is a “foolish” justification.

“People forget we are part of a system, so unique to the state of Wisconsin. [UW-Madison] is so different from other Big 10 Schools who aren’t part of a system,” Evans told The Daily Cardinal.

Evans said she feels that UW-Madison—where 1 in 5 is a transfer student—should be dedicated and accessible to students throughout the UW System.

She said potentially compromising the number of spots for transfer students is contrary to this idea, as well as UW-Madison’s commitment to diversity.

But Peck said there are multiple benefits to the increase of direct admits. She also cited faster graduation rates as a reason to increase the number of direct admit students.

“We have looked at the data comparing direct admits to students admitted through the pre-business process. While both groups perform equally well, the direct admits graduate sooner,” Peck said.

According to university officials, there is a direct correlation between finishing college on time and taking on excess debt. In some cases, direct admission to schools can help students get classes and get to graduation earlier.

Pre-business students are students currently attending any school in the UW System or the Wisconsin Technical College System that can transfer directly into the UW-Madison’s business school.

Contrastly, transfer students from schools outside of the UW System need to first complete 12 credits at UW-Madison before applying.

Evans also disagrees with the faster graduation metric. She claims that UW System transfer students—who are pre-business—are more likely to graduate from WSB than direct admits who may switch to a different major.

However, the changes could have been more drastic.

This increase comes after a failed proposal to raise the percentage of incoming students to 85 percent direct admits. This would have meant that only about 180 students would be admitted as pre-business or transfer—down from 800.

These decisions are made by a board of faculty governance at the WSB, where two of ten members are students. This committee debated the change, according to Peck.

“After a faculty staff meeting where we presented information on the proposed direct admit increase, we collected comments from all those present. Then each point was discussed at the curriculum committee,” Peck told the Daily Cardinal.

Evans became involved in this issue because staff at the WSB reached out to her anonymously, with frustration that they were unable to have a say in this decision.

“Why did this go through 2 committees and the Dean, and nobody stopped it?” Evans asked about the proposal.

According to Evans, there are rumors that officials have floated a proposal to lower credit limits for transfer students.

Currently, if a student has more than 86 credits at another institution they are ineligible for acceptance at the WBS. Lowering this limit would make it even more difficult for transfer students, especially as the WSB has only one round of applications yearly.

Peck denied that there has been discussion about lowering the credit rule, and said it would have to go through the faculty governance system before approval.

For now, admission policies remain steady and new proposals will be guided by Anne P. Massey, who enters her new role as the next business school dean this August. 

UPDATE April 27, 2:25 p.m.: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Peck denied that there had been no discussion regarding the lowering of credits. However, he denied there had been discussion. The Daily Cardinal regrets this error. 

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