RICHMOND, DEC. 8 -- Offering little comfort to anxious parents in Northern Virginia, the state Council of Higher Education said today that qualified state students are not being turned away from public colleges, and it refused to recommend changes in admission policies.
Rejecting contentions by Northern Virginians that fewer out-of-state students should be admitted to the most prestigious public institutions, the council said that those students supply essential diversity and tens of millions of dollars in revenue through the higher tuition they pay.
Also, because admission to top Virginia colleges is more competitive for out-of-state students, the "impressive" qualifications that they bring to the state-supported schools make these institutions more desirable, the council said.
The council report, issued during the height of college application season, said that state-supported colleges could defuse some anger of rejected students and their parents by doing a better job communicating their admission criteria.
It recommended that the board of visitors at each state-supported institution review and approve admission policies, establish admission standards and publish them to help students assess their chances of getting in. Those policies should include a specified mix of state and out-of-state students, the report said.
The council recommendations go to Gov. Gerald L. Baliles and the Virginia General Assembly. The legislature ordered the report after hearing complaints from Northern Virginia parents and the Fairfax County School Board that excellent local students were being turned away from the prestigious state schools because admissions have become more competitive in recent years.
Council members said they hoped that the report would soothe some anxieties by supplying a rationale for not changing admission procedures, but they conceded that it probably would not quell the controversy.
"I don't think you're going to find a report that's going to do that," said Bernard J. Haggerty of Charlottesville. "If your student has been rejected by William and Mary or the University of Virginia, you don't want any out-of-state students until your child gets there."
Ann Hargrove, guidance director at Fairfax County's Langley High School, said that she can see both sides of the college admission issue but that her students who are rejected from their first-choice school sometimes are bitter. "It usually works out pretty well for them," but "it's terribly painful come April 1," the reply date.
The council's report included a study of what happened to 11,252 rejected state applicants for September 1986 admission to the four most prestigious state schools -- the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary, Virginia Tech and James Madison University.
All but 3 percent enrolled in college somewhere, the study said, and 67 percent went to a state-supported institution in Virginia. Most went to a less-prestigious institution than the one that rejected them, but slightly more than one in four enrolled in another of the four most prestigious schools, the study said.
"It is evident from this study that applicants rejected from one of Virginia's more selective institutions can be admitted to and enrolled in a Virginia public state-supported institution," the council report said. Also, the study noted that Northern Virginia supplies a disproportionate amount of the freshman class at the four top colleges. Although only 17 percent of the state's high school graduates are from Fairfax County and Fairfax City, they accounted for 29 percent of 1986's entering freshman at the University of Virginia, 30 percent at James Madison, 29 percent at William and Mary and 26 percent at Virginia Tech.
Only one of the four most prestigious state schools, James Madison, has significantly increased its share of out-of-state admissions in recent years, from 19 percent in 1977 to 27 percent this fall. Thirty percent of Virginia Tech's 1987 freshmen are from out-of-state, as are 37 percent of the University of Virginia's and 36 percent of William and Mary's. Twenty-six percent of 1987 freshmen at all state schools were from out of state, compared with 21 percent in 1974.