CAP students love UTSA, for now

UT Tower

The Coordinated Admission Program (CAP) is designed to expand admission options for students who were not initially admitted to the University of Texas at Austin. UT Austin started the program as an effort to keep from “closing the door” on Texas residents who wanted to become a Longhorn. The CAP program is only for Texas residents and allows students to enroll in participating UT system universities for a year, and later transfer to the flagship campus.

Upon enrollment in those universities, the freshmen must take 30 hours during a regular fall or spring semester from approved courses and maintain at least a 3.2 GPA. Mini-mesters or summer semesters cannot be used to fulfill the 30 hours.

Once a student successfully completes the program, he or she is automatically admitted into UT Austin’s School of Undergraduate Studies (UGS), the College of Liberal Arts or the College of Natural Sciences. Students may also apply to other colleges at UT Austin but are not guaranteed admittance.

Originally, between 1961 and 2001, UT Austin offered a Summer Provision Admissions (PA) program that provisionally allowed students who were not accepted for the fall semester to take summer classes and gain admittance. Student become eligible to enroll in fall classes if they took 12 hours during the summer before their freshman year and earned a 2.25 GPA.

In 2000, the program had to be re-evaluated when there was a surge of students applying to UT Austin. This led to a surge in the number of incoming freshmen admitted including a large increase in the number of students admitted to the PA program. That year, 4,000 students were offered admittance into the PA program, with 1,500 of them enrolling and 905 successfully completing and enrolling in the fall semester. This unexpected increase in freshman enrollment led to the creation of the CAP program.

Between 2001 and 2009 the CAP program had contracts with 14,181 students, with only 5,139 (36 percent) actually successfully completing the program. Out of the 14,181 students enrolled in CAP, UTSA had the largest number of CAP students in the UT system with 9,804 (69 percent) and 3,849 (39 percent) of those students successfully completed the program.

Gabby Quintanilla, now a sophomore communication and sciences disorders major at UT Austin, was a CAP student at UTSA and really loved the program. “I didn’t go out much. My whole focus that year was to study. The program took a lot of commitment and effort. Overall, I had a good year. The program was definitely worth it.”

One of the major downsides UTSA faces with admitting such a large number of CAP students is an automatic lowering of the graduation rate. The University of Texas System Graduation Rates Initiative and Timely Graduation Progress Report says that in 2009, 26 percent (1,505 of 5,788) of the incoming freshmen at UTSA were CAP students. Of the 1,505 students 642 (42 percent) transferred to UT Austin through the CAP program. That is to say that even if every single student at UTSA who is not in the CAP program graduated, the highest graduation rate of that class could be 89 percent.

Another aspect of the CAP program, often unspoken, is the emotional toll these students carry with them. Administrators, students and faculty at UTSA, a university that started as a commuter campus, have been trying to change the commuter mindset that might prevail in some students. Some argue that CAP students might perpetuate a come-and-transfer mindset at UTSA.

Junior mechanical engineering, Mohammed Sahba, said, “I don’t think the CAP program is as beneficial as some people think. As I see it, the program undermines morale around campus.”

“I love UTSA, and I chose to come here instead of UT Austin. Surely there are people that want to transfer there. Nonetheless, we shouldn’t encourage it.”

There are also major benefits from the CAP program. One of them is state exposure. Texas students who might not otherwise have considered attending UTSA do so now through the CAP program. George E. Norton, director of admissions at UTSA, said, “The CAP program has really brought a statewide exposure to students in the state of Texas. UTSA historically has drawn its students from south Texas and the Bexar county area. Now, all of a sudden, students from all over the state get the chance to take a look at UTSA. This program has really built the recognition and status of our university around the state.”

Between 2001 and 2010 there were 5,476 students from different parts of Texas who successfully completed the CAP program. Of those 5,476, 5,131 (94 percent) chose to transfer to UT Austin.

Daniel Boone, now an anthropology graduate student, was one of the 6 percent who decided to stay in 2008. He decided to stay at UTSA for a number of reasons. “I really started getting involved in organizations and clubs. I was starting to meet people and have a lot of fun. My major also had a lot to do with it. I came in not knowing what to do, and I eventually chose to major in anthropology. The professors here were absolutely amazing.”

UTSA has already begun to scale back the amount of students they accept to the CAP program, Norton said. “We’ve renegotiated our agreement with UT Austin. Before anybody was offered CAP when rejected from UT Austin. Now we might not want to admit students who wouldn’t get into UTSA to begin with.”

According to Norton, “There’s not one person who makes the decisions about cutting CAP. We have an Enrollment Management Committee that has faculty and staff members who look at issues of enrollment like admission requirements we have. The discussion about CAP comes from many people at UTSA.”

Although the CAP program will continue to be scaled back in the coming years, there is still no official date for when UTSA will stop participating in the program.