Does U.Va have a quota for Northern Virginia admissions?


(Norm Shafer for The Washington Post)

Some elected officials in Northern Virginia, frustrated by steep competition for admission to Virginia’s premier universities, are advocating for a new law that would enforce a 25 percent cap on out-of-state students.

But some say such a cap would only go so far to help students in the high-performing suburbs of Washington, where students often feel their stiffest competition comes from within their own classrooms.

With so many high-performing students in Northern Virginia, many families feel their children have to meet a higher standard to gain admission to the best state schools because the number of seats is limited by some kind of regional quota.

“They call it the Northern Virginia problem,” said Dave Scarangella, an Ashburn father whose daughter had a 4.28 grade-point average and was rejected by the University of Virginia last year.

“If your hope is for your kids to get into University of Virginia, either have a Plan B or move to Lynchburg,” he said.

But officials from the state’s flagship university maintain that they do not have quotas for admission.

“U.Va. does not use quotas, nor do we have admission or enrollment targets or goals for high schools, counties, districts, or regions of the state,” said university spokesman McGregor McCance in an e-mail. “Applications are reviewed holistically and comprehensively based on merit.”

McCance said the following factors are considered for admission:

“Curriculum, grades, rank in class, GPA, standardized test scores, a demonstrated love of learning, academic improvement, academic industry, rigor of program, trends in grades, recommendations, extracurricular involvement, honors and awards, leadership ability, writing ability, artistic talent, service.

“The admission committee seeks students who offer a diversity of backgrounds, interests, beliefs, opinions, and ideas.

“Other factors considered in the review include: economic hardship, life obstacles, educational level of parent, alumni and faculty ties, race/ethnicity, and accomplishments in the school or community as well as aspirations, interests and experiences.”

For this year’s freshmen class, the mean SAT scores are 667 reading; 682 math; and 670 on the writing portion. The mean for math and verbal is 1349. The mean for all three is 2018. In all, 92 percent of the class was in the top 10 percent of their high school’s graduating class.

The acceptance rate for in-state students is about 40 percent, compared to about 20 percent for out-of-state students, McCance said.

According to data maintained by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, the acceptance rate in 2012-2013 for Fairfax (which had 2,248 applicants) was 41 percent, for Loudoun (which had 678 applicants) was 36 percent, for Prince William County (which had 433 applicants) was 35 percent, and for Arlington (which had 298 applicants) was 41 percent.

Lynchburg City (which had only 70 applicants) had an admission rate of 50 percent.

The number of applicants to the University of Virginia has grown steadily in the Northern Virginia districts, and the acceptance rates for 2012-2013 were the lowest in recent years.

Over the past five years, admissions rates ranged from 41 percent to 47 percent in Fairfax, from 36 to 44 percent in Loudoun, from 35 to 46 in Prince William, and from 41 to 47 percent in Arlington.

In Lynchburg, the acceptance rate ranged from 46 to 61 percent.

Here is a breakdown of total enrollment among all undergraduates by the top 10 localities for 2012:

Fairfax County: 2,574

Loudoun County: 602

Virginia Beach: 465

Henrico County: 460

Prince William County: 416

Chesterfield County: 375

Albemarle County: 360

Arlington: 255

Charlottesville: 236

Alexandria: 216

Michael Alison Chandler writes about schools and families in the Washington region.
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