This article comes from our electronic archive and has not been reviewed. It may contain glitches.

Southeast Missouri State University is moving to make its admission standards "moderately selective." The change is in line with the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education push to require entering students to be better prepared academically.

Becoming more selective in college admissions is not innately wrong. Attending college is not the same fundamental right as elementary or high school education. Not everyone is academically suited for college; many jobs simply don't require that level of education.

The board of regents has debated whether the university should be highly selective, selective, moderately selective, or an open-access campus. Under a statewide proposal, the state's four-year colleges and universities must define their admission standards by these four categories by early next year.

While the board hasn't made its final decision, it appears to be leaning toward the "moderately selective" standard. We are glad to see the regents aren't striving to make Southeast an elitist university by severely limiting admissions. One of Southeast's strengths is the fact it has brought together a wide range of students from many backgrounds.

On the other hand, too many students begin college and then drop out. Institutions of higher education should not be in the business of teaching remedial English or reading. As admission standards become tougher, college graduation rates should rise.

A new high school core curriculum requirement, urged by the coordinating board, should also help to raise the quality of beginning freshmen. This requirement will be in place at Southeast in the fall of 1995, with statewide implementation scheduled in 1996. High school students must take a minimum number of science, English and math courses if they want to attend Missouri's public colleges and universities. The whole idea is to better prepare students for success in higher education.

The policy would apply to first-time freshmen and transfer students. Non-traditional students who may have graduated from high school a number of years ago; international students; and those not served by a community college district would not be held to the same standards, educators say.

The proposal would automatically allow universities exemptions equal to 10 percent of the entering students. Had the new standards been in place this fall, about 145 students would have been excluded over and above the 10 percent cap.

Southeast has not had an open-admissions policy since the late 1980s and has adopted tougher admission standards in recent years. But it doesn't appear that today's standards are quite high enough to meet the "moderately selective" level.

In all of this, the university walks a fine line - a desire to draw the top students, and the knowledge that the competition for these top students is fierce. But public universities by their very nature must generally appeal to a wide range of students.

Admission standards have to be broad enough to allow sufficient numbers of students to attend classes, but aggressive enough to draw students both prepared and capable of learning at the college level.