Fresno State reserving slots for desired students

With space for freshmen at a premium, Fresno State and some sister campuses are reserving fall 2010 slots for athletes, musicians and others who might be turned away.

The 23-campus California State University system has long made academic exceptions. Most have been for freshmen disadvantaged by poverty, personal circumstance or lack of college preparation.

But this year -- for the first time -- some campuses may need to make exceptions for students they need for sports, band, ROTC or other specialized programs such as agriculture and engineering.

Space, limited by budget constraints, is the issue. Some CSU campuses -- including Fresno State -- are managing freshman admissions first by considering proximity to campus. Qualified students from outside the local market will be ranked academically and admitted on a space-available basis.

That could create a situation where an out-of-area recruit might meet CSU standards but wouldn't have a high enough academic ranking for admission to an individual campus. Fresno State has set aside up to 240 slots as a safety net for those and also for disadvantaged students.

Officials say outside freshmen admitted for special talent or skills won't bump qualified local freshmen, who have priority for admission if they meet Monday's application deadline.

Jim Blackburn, CSU's systemwide director of enrollment management, said about a dozen campuses -- compared to six last year -- have strict deadlines and rules for fall admissions because of space.

Many are similarly reserving room for freshmen with special skills who otherwise might miss an academic cutoff. He added that the group is much more than just athletes: "This is all special talents and not just shortstops and goalies, quarterbacks and centers."

Bernie Vinovrski, associate vice president for enrollment services at Fresno State, said he expects "relatively few" such special skills or talent admissions.

Representatives from some campus programs say they also anticipate few problems.

Several programs recruit fewer than 100 freshmen each fall, with at least half coming from the local market.

Tim Anderson, associate director of bands at Fresno State, called the admission restrictions "a challenge that everyone at the university has to deal with -- it's the nature of the times we're in."

Charles Boyer, dean of the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, said the college draws beyond the area because it is one of the state's few ag schools. He doesn't expect too much of a problem finding room for those students coming from outside the region.

Betsy J. Mosher, senior associate director of athletics, said coaches are working to manage the new rules and early application deadlines. The university has about 450 student athletes.

She said the department may need to petition for some exceptions, but "we'll do our best to meet all the deadlines."

Vinovrski said he has the final say on special admissions.

For fall 2010, Fresno State expects to enroll about 2,400 freshmen -- compared to 2,800 this fall. Priority is given to qualified freshmen from Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties. The university also is giving priority to students from several dozen feeder schools and districts from outside the four-county region.

The CSU system is working to curb enrollment because of budget problems. This year, the system absorbed a $564 million cut and announced plans to reduce enrollment by 40,000 students over the next two years.