A plan to ensure that the Lowcountry's smartest high school seniors have the opportunity to earn a degree close to home sounds almost too good to be true. But it might not be far-fetched at all.
College of Charleston President Glenn McConnell announced a new proposal on Monday for a pilot program to admit the top 10 percent of graduating seniors from every high school in the tri-county area and possibly other, more rural Lowcountry counties.
Mr. McConnell's plan would boost diversity at the College, which has one of the smallest rates of minority enrollment among the state's public institutions of higher education. Despite recent efforts to attract minority students, the school is still more than 80 percent white.
The move should also help silence critics who feared that bringing on Mr. McConnell, a former Republican lawmaker and well-known Civil War reenactor, as the school's president might hamper efforts to diversify the student body. Mr. McConnell is wise to address those concerns early in his tenure.
Of course, admitting students and helping them afford college are two very different things. McConnell did not specify whether an expanded scholarship program might be part of the plan.
The Texas law upon which the College of Charleston plan is based offers guaranteed admission to the University of Texas system for the top 10 percent of students across the state. But it has drawn criticism despite considerable success in bolstering racial diversity. Students at competitive high schools complained that they were being shut out even though they were in some ways more qualified than students at lower achieving schools.
Like Texas, the C of C would remove SAT scores from consideration in the application process for the top 10 percent. Several studies have suggested that high school grades are a better indicator of college success.
Taking another lesson from Texas, the College of Charleston should develop a pre-emptive strategy to ensure that all high-achieving students from competitive schools in the region and state have a better chance at admission.
Fostering a student population that looks a little more like the region around it is a worthy goal. And offering admission to the Lowcountry's best students should help keep the region's brightest minds closer to home.
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