In 2013, Texas made big changes to the rules for high school graduation. House Bill 5 implemented new requirements for graduation referred to as the Foundations High School Program. The question is, how will the Foundations High School Program effect college admissions? While there is no sure answer to this questions, there are a few conclusions we can draw from past experience with college placement and changing requirements.
But first, some background on this change. It seems like old news to be debating a change from 2013, but the effect of this change are just coming to fruition. While older students have been able to opt into the Foundations Program, the class of 2018 will be the first class significantly affected by the change to the Foundations Program. Prior to House Bill 5 (and the class of 2018), most students in Texas graduated under the Recommended High School Program. Compared to the Recommended Program, the Foundations Program would require fewer credits to graduate. The House Bill 5 legislation also encouraged students to earn “Endorsements.” Schools can offer one or all of the recommended endorsements of: STEM, Business and Industry, Public Services, Arts and Humanities, and Multidisciplinary Studies.
The addition of the endorsements has caused a great deal of confusion for students and their families. Selecting an endorsement is a little like declaring a major in high school (or even middle school). It’s very confusing and a big departure from previous graduation plans. The addition or endorsements has spurned a new list of questions for students: Do you really need to earn an endorsement? How many endorsements do you need to earn? Are some endorsements worth more than others to college? Here are some points to keep in mind about how colleges may view the first students graduating under the Foundations High School Graduation Plan:
Focus on “The Big 3.” Class rank, course rigor, and test scores are still your most important factors to college admission. The Foundations Program and Endorsements may have some impact on college admissions, but to a lesser degree. If you look at it from the universities point of view, “The Big 3” are still much better indicators of future success. While the lack on any endorsements would indicate a student not taking challenging coursework, endorsements are merely a by-product of course selection. In that regard, an endorsement will not weight more heavily in an admissions process than “The Big 3.”
Public universities in Texas will care some. Texas public universities are governed by the same institution that created House Bill 5, the Texas State Legislature. As a byproduct, Texas’ public universities will be required to consider the Foundations Program (and endorsements) into their admissions process. House Bill 5 has already resulted in more questions to sending schools regarding the category of diploma a student is graduating under. How much they will consider endorsements remains to be seen.
Private and out of state universities will care little. Private schools and out of state universities are not governed by the Texas State Legislature. As a result, they will not be bound to consider endorsements the way Texas state schools will. As a result, they should care little about the graduation plan and endorsement earned by students applying to their school.
The Foundations Program is still new. It’s important not to be too intimidated by the confusing details of the new requirements. For now, we think it is important for student to continue to focus on GPA, course rigor, and test scores when planning for college. Please contact us if you have more questions about how the House Bill 5 Foundations Plan Graduation Requirements will affect your student.