- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 23, 2014

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) - The New Mexico State University Board of Regents opted Monday to toughen admissions requirements for incoming freshmen, a change that civil rights groups vowed to fight.

In a unanimous vote, university regents adopted revisions that would increase the minimum grade-point average to 2.75, up from 2.5, in fall 2016.

The regents made their approval conditional on NMSU using an “alternative pathway,” allowing students who don’t meet the higher requirement to transfer to the university after attending community college and maintaining a GPA of at least 2.75.

Officials say they hope the move will help more students complete college or lower their student debt if they don’t.

“Sometimes you have to be the change you seek,” regents chairman Mike Cheney said.

Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales, also a regent, urged the university to ensure pathway students feel like a part of the NMSU community. Gonzales said he would have been put on the pathway had the new requirements been in place when he applied to NMSU.

“I think, on paper, it makes a lot of sense what I’m seeing here,” he said of the plan. “But so much of being successful in college comes from what happens outside the classroom.”

Admissions counselors will still read every application and can admit students who don’t meet the new requirement but show potential for success, according to Provost Dan Howard.

The change is subject to final approval in December.

The move drew fire from some Latino groups who say the tougher admission standards could affect Latino student enrollment.

Ralph Arellanes, chair of the Hispanic Round Table of New Mexico, called the change “elitist” and vowed to fight the new standard before it takes effect.

“I’m outraged and appalled that they did this,” Arellanes said. “How do they justify this by saying it will help student success? It makes college more exclusionary.”

The University of New Mexico is expected to revisit a similar proposal that has drawn fire from civil rights advocates in the past.

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