Every student is “college material.” It is with that mindset that the Office of Higher Education (OHE) is launching Direct Admissions. This new pilot program will notify graduating high school seniors of participating colleges and universities that are eager to admit them. Students are able to bypass the traditional admissions process and receive direct admissions. "Direct admissions" may be referred to as conditional admissions or guaranteed admissions depending on the college.
OHE held informational webinars to provide an overview of the program, the benefits to high schools, funding available for staff and technology costs, and implementation. Direct Admissions Minnesota is a partnership project between K-12 and higher education, led by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. The program was made possible with funding by the Minnesota Legislature during the 2021 legislative session.
The Minnesota Office of Higher Education (OHE) invites Minnesota high schools to participate in Direct Admissions, a free pilot program to promote college application and attendance for your 2023 graduating seniors. Funding is available for 25-50 high schools to participate in the pilot 2022-2023 academic year. These OHE hosted 3 informational webinars earlier this month to will provide an overview of the program, the benefits to high schools, funding available for staff and technology costs, and implementation. Webinar materials can be found below.
Currently, significant disparities in educational attainment exist for Minnesota's Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color. These disparities occur throughout the education pathway. Direct Admissions Minnesota has great potential to reduce equity gaps by providing important college-going information to high school students, and eliminating the need for extensive college-going knowledge to navigate the college admissions process.
A direct admissions system bypasses the typical college admissions process by proactively admitting students to college. Students receive letters indicating they have met the criteria for admissions to participating colleges and outlines the steps required for students to select their institution(s) using a common or universal application. All students in a state who are on-track for high school graduation are admitted to open-access institutions. Students who meet identified academic thresholds based on grade point average, test scores, courses taken, or a combination of these measures are admitted to selective participating institutions. Participating colleges would agree on academic benchmarks to determine a student's eligibility for direct admissions as a group.
This pilot program aims to reduce self-selection bias and reduce equity gaps in college enrollment using four strategies:
For more information, please contact:
Director of Research and SLEDS
Assistant Commissioner for Programs, Policy, and Grants
The Office of Higher Education proposed implementing Direct Admissions Minnesota during the 2021-2022 academic year. The first group of seniors would see letters in fall of 2022. The first year of the project focused on establishing a pilot program with a limited number of high schools and districts to assess the work required for participating schools, funding requirements, and technology needs. The Minnesota Office of Higher Education initially structured the project to begin in late summer 2021. With pandemic planning for schools and colleges taking precedent, implementation began in late October 2021.
This type of program has worked successfully in other states. Direct Admissions was first implemented by Idaho in 2016. The program was successful in reversing declining postsecondary enrollments and reducing out-of-state migration. In addition to Idaho, South Dakota began proactive admissions for the high school class of 2018 (South Dakota Department of Education, 2019). In 2019, Illinois passed legislation to develop a pilot program for the 2020-2021 academic year to automatically admit high-performing Illinois high school graduates to targeted four-year public colleges.
Results for Idaho demonstrate that the program increases the number of students applying for and enrolling at both two-year and four-year colleges immediately after high school, both overall and within the state. Delaney et al. (2019) found that Idaho's implementation of direct admissions was associated with a statistically significant increase in undergraduate enrollment of 11.0% at the institutional level, as well as institutional increases in in-state enrollment between 11.1% to 16.3%. Similarly, direct admissions was associated with a statistically-significant, statewide increase in full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment of 11.3%.
The Office contacted stakeholders to ask for a representative for the planning and implementation work group for the program. Stakeholders from K12 schools, education organizations, student groups, colleges, and college preparation programs agreed to serve on the work group which began meeting in December 2021.
Implementation work group partners include representatives from Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Private College Council, the OHE Student Advisory Council, Minnesota Department of Education, the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals, and the Minnesota School Board Association, Minnesota Charter School Association, Minnesota Counselors Association, MN TRiO, local school districts, postsecondary institutions, and the Minnesota Legislature. OHE formed two additional working groups to focus specifically on work needed for K-12 and postsecondary education aspects of the program.
Delaney, J., González Canché, M., and Odle, T. (2018).Direct Admissions, Investigating a low cost promising policy innovation to increase college access & equity. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, The Forum on the Future of Public Education. Retrieved January 4, 2022.
Howell, C., Mehl, A., Pennington, J., Pontius, J., & Kock, S. (2019). Using SLDS data to support college admissions. Boise, ID: Idaho State Board of Education. Retrieved January 18, 2022.