In March 2014, the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) kicked off a study to explore the feasibility of a statewide common college application. The study explored whether potential benefits and cost savings to students could be achieved by identifying areas of improvement during the application experience for students, including the possibility of a shared USHE-wide platform for college admissions.
The Office of the Commissioner led efforts to understand the admissions processes of public universities and colleges in eight other states where a common application has been implemented. Dozens of meetings and interviews were held with common application administrators, users, and admissions officers. In Utah, fifteen focus groups were held involving more than 100 stakeholders from USHE institutions, students, parents, K-12 administrators, and admissions officers. In addition, a survey of more than 1,800 college applicants was held to better understand any best practices and barriers to the college application experience at USHE institutions.
The findings of the study were presented to the Board of Regents at the May 15 meeting with recommended follow-up in specific areas over the next year:
- Electronic Transcript Upload: Develop a system to upload high school transcripts so applicants can easily link them to their application at time of submission. Additionally, work with K12 leaders on making sure transcript data is coded properly and is true and accurate.
- Common Residency Determination: Standardize residency procedures and requirements systemwide. Additionally, explore possibility of a centralized hub so applicants only need to submit documentation once.
- Concurrent Enrollment: Standardize the concurrent enrollment application process and change of status process (to degree-seeking) for applicants across USHE institutions.
- Use of Social Security Number (SSN) during the Application Process: Allow applicants to move through and submit an application without their SSN. SSN may be an optional. If institutions still plan to ask for this optional field on the application, consider using a clear disclaimer outlining use of SSNs during the application process.
- Application Fee Waiver: Develop a standardized process and provide application fee waivers for applicants with demonstrated need.
College applications have long been a part of the process for students to embark on their post-secondary career. In recent years, higher education administrators have begun to examine the admissions process more closely and identify barriers that might keep students from applying to college, especially as the nation’s student population becomes more diverse.