To Get Into A Cal State, You Won't Need More High School Math — Yet

A sign protesting a plan by California State University to add an additional year of math skills to the university system's admission application. (Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/LAist)

A controversial proposal to require high school students to take an extra year of math or a related class, like personal finance or coding, to be considered for admission to the Cal State University system is on hold.

Opponents of the plan have said it would discriminate against low-income students and students of color. The CSU board of trustees had been previously scheduled to vote on whether to authorize it at its meeting on Wednesday. Instead, they decided to wait for the results of a year-long independent study of the plan.

WHAT IS THE PLAN?

Those following the controversy closely may know the plan by its former name: the CSU Quantitative Reasoning Proposal.

Education advocates had long argued that the proposal would shut out students from schools that don't have the resources to add a fourth year of math or related courses. They are applauding the trustees' order for further study.

"We are encouraged that the Chancellor listened to our concerns that a shift in the admissions policy could have made it more difficult for students of color and low-income students to enter CSU," said Elisha Smith Arrillaga, executive director of Education Trust-West, in a statement. "The proposed analysis is a positive step to ensure educational equity."

HOW THE STUDY WILL WORK

The study will last a year and be conducted by a yet-to-be-named independent research group. Then, the trustees will review the study. Assuming it's completed on time, they'll vote in 2022 on whether to require stricter "quantitative reasoning" standards.

A yes vote would require incoming students to have finished more advanced classes in math or disciplines that require good math skills. Supporters of such requirements say that would better prepare incoming freshmen for college-level courses.

WHAT CLASSES WOULD QUALIFY?

Here are some of the classes CSU says could meet the new requirement:

  • Engineering
  • Forensics
  • Veterinary Science
  • Sports Medicine
  • Environmental Science
  • Statistics
  • Economics
  • Personal Finance
  • Accounting
  • Computer Science
  • Robotics
  • Programming
  • Coding
  • Game Design

THE COUNTER VIEW

Opponents say the burden to create and staff these classes would fall on California public school districts. And they say that's an issue.

L.A. Unified, the state's largest school district, says fewer than half of its graduates qualify to apply to Cal State under the current three-year math requirement. The school district, along with districts in Santa Ana, Anaheim, San Francisco, Sacramento, and others, are opposing the Cal State proposal.

California State University has argued that the change wouldn't be such a big push because nearly 80% of its incoming freshmen already have a fourth year of math or a quantitative reasoning class under their belt. Trustees point to Long Beach Unified as a model district for the change. Long Beach high schools already require graduates to take a fourth year of math or a class with math skills.