The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Top 5% of high school students automatically admitted into UW schools

2023 Wisconsin Act 95 signed into law and begins change in UW system admissions process
Photo by Cade Fisher
To be admitted through this act, students still need to submit a full and timely application to the UW school or schools of choice.

The Wisconsin State Legislature just approved a bill that would guarantee admissions for the top 5% of every in-state high school class. The bill was then signed into law by Gov. Tony Evers on Feb. 20.

According to the Wisconsin State Legislature, S.B. 367, now 2023 Wisconsin Act 95, will require the Universities of Wisconsin Board of Regents to establish a guaranteed admission process for high schoolers in the top 5% of their class who apply to any UW school.

As described in the Act, every student who is ranked in the top 5% for their public, private or tribal high school will be admitted upon proper application, no matter the class size. The bill gave an example that for a graduating class of 20, the top student would be in the top 5%.

Vice Chancellor Billy Felz said students who apply to UW-Eau Claire are considered by looking at numerous factors, giving an example of a potential nursing student who has a good grade point average, or GPA, but low scores in science classes. 

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UWEC utilizes a holistic review around academic preparedness for college,” Felz said. “Our average incoming GPA is a 3.56, and the team in Admissions looks at the entire performance of a student.” 

Felz said that if needed, a secondary review is conducted by considering a potential student’s participation in honors programs, awards or life experiences for example.

According to this act, students who are applying as first-year undergraduate students need to be either ranked in the top 5% of their class at graduation or at the time of application, or achieve an ACT score ranked in the top 5% of the state to be admitted.

A stipulation to the act is if a student applies to multiple UW schools, only one school is affected  under this act and guarantees acceptance. The school is chosen by the student during applications.

According to Felz, UW-Eau Claire does not view this act drastically affecting the class sizes and enrollment for the future of the university.

“One of the biggest risks to enrollment throughout higher education is that high school graduates are not engaging with universities,” Felz said. “If this new [act] gets students to think about going to college and seeing it as a viable option for them, then we are excited by that prospect.”

Another addition that this act makes to the education system is that high schools would be required to have a class ranking system in place. According to the act, schools must establish a method of ranking students based on GPA, ACT scores, course work and other measures of academic achievement.

Specifically, schools need to make a ranking at the end of every eleventh and twelfth grade year, identifying students who are in the top 5% by providing a notice. However, the schools do not have to include the ranking of students not in the top 5%.

Organization communications student Hallie Halverson, business administrative and communication student Kylie Bunde and integrative strategic communications student Olivia Crowley all were wary of the change. 

“What if you try really hard and are not in the top 5%?” Crowley said.

Bunde said the high school a student attended could have a negative effect on their preparedness for higher education.

“I don’t think that’s right,” Halverson said. “No matter what your ranking is, it should be an even playing field.”

Fisher can be reached at [email protected].

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