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6:34 AM Tue, Feb. 19th

Equal admission before governor

TUCSON (AP) – A new measure pending the governor's approval would require equal access to guaranteed admission for students from public, private, charter and home schools.

Starting in fall 2006, only the top 25 percent of Arizona's high school graduating classes – not the current 50 percent – will be guaranteed admission.

But home-schooled students would not have been eligible for assured admission because they do not have a class rank.

If Gov.

Janet Napolitano's signs the bill, home-schooled students would still have a chance for guaranteed admission into one of the state's public universities after Arizona moves to a class-ranking system in 2006.

The Arizona Board of Regents voted a year ago to give the universities discretion in admitting most of the students who apply.

The new policy also eliminated grade-point averages or standardized test scores as criteria for assured admission.

All three universities have the discretion to admit students who graduate in the top 26 percent to 50 percent of their classes.

The University of Arizona, which plans to become more selective over time, is developing a system focused on admitting students who are more likely to graduate.

Last month regents started discussing how to make sure the applications process was fair to home-schooled students but university officials didn't want to promise anyone admission beyond the top 25 percent.

UA President Peter Likins told the home-school supporters in April that most of their students would still be admitted because they tend to be highly qualified.

The numbers of home-schooled students applying to the UA have been relatively small, but records show most have been accepted.

Last fall, the UA accepted 20 of the 24 students who applied.

Six chose to enroll.

Still, home-schoolers didn't want to be the only group in the state without some measure of guaranteed admission.

On Wednesday legislators stepped in and passed a measure that ensures home-schoolers an opportunity for guaranteed admission.

The bill passed 56-0 in the House and 26-0 in the Senate.

"We were thrilled and delighted," said Dorie Duff, legislative liaison for Arizona Families for Home Education, whose organization represents the state's more than 10,000 home-schooled students.

Regents' lobbyist Cathy McGonigle said the board must now establish a policy that provides equitable access for home-schooled students.

"I think the universities are going to have to work together on some criteria," McGonigle said, noting home-schooled students tend to be well-prepared.

Duff said she never believed anyone wanted to keep home-schoolers out of the universities.

"I know they want those kinds of students."