A Look at California State University Admissions Requirements

How an Additional Quantitative Reasoning Course Could Affect Student Access and Success

By Susan Sepanik, Alyssa Ratledge, Andrea Shane, Michelle Dixon, Amanda Martin-Lawrence

For the past several years, the California State University (CSU) has been investigating a proposal to add one year of high school quantitative reasoning coursework to the current CSU first-year admissions requirements, often referred to as A-G courses. MDRC is conducting a third-party, independent analysis of the potential impact of the proposed requirement with the goal of better understanding the effects the proposed policy change might have on students’ access to the CSU and their success once at the CSU, particularly for students from backgrounds that are historically underrepresented at universities, including Black and Latinx students and students from families with low incomes. The study further explores the capacity of school districts and high schools across the state to implement the proposed policy change equitably and what additional resources would be needed to do so.

Key Findings

  • While many California public high school graduates do not meet the current A-G course requirements, nearly all high school graduates (including CSU applicants and CSU enrollees) who met A-G course requirements also took and passed an additional quantitative reasoning course that would fulfill the proposed additional requirement even though the requirement is not in place.
  • Taking and passing an additional quantitative reasoning course may support students’ success later in college. Students who passed an additional quantitative reasoning course in high school were more likely to pass their first college-level mathematics course and students who passed a quantitative reasoning course during their senior year of high school were more likely to attain a degree and much more likely to attain a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degree from the CSU.
  • Disparities in the percentage of students meeting the current A-G course requirements exist across almost all the subgroups explored, including for Black and Latinx students, students from families with low incomes, students from rural areas and small towns, students whose parents did not attend college, and English learners. The proposed additional requirement would be unlikely to diminish or intensify these disparities.
  • The study team interviewed interested parties from across the state, and most respondents held mixed views of the proposed policy change. Nearly all respondents said they thought that the proposal had the potential to improve students’ ability to pass college mathematics courses, but many worried that the proposal would limit some students’ ability to attend the CSU.
  • While most districts have a relatively small percentage of students who meet A-G requirements that do not already meet the proposed additional requirement, there are some districts that have larger percentages of students that do not meet the additional requirement, and these districts may struggle more with implementing the proposed policy change.
  • The biggest concern of high school staff and school district staff members was the ability to find additional teachers with the proper credentialing to meet the increased course demand. They also noted a need for improved coordination and communication about policy changes and how to support students in meeting any proposed new requirements.

Document Details

Publication Type
November 2022
Sepanik, Susan, Alyssa Ratledge, Andrea Shane, Michelle Dixon, and Amanda Martin-Lawrence. 2022. A Look at California State University Admissions Requirements. New York: MDRC.