One university says it has already begun denying admission to “risky” applicants over fears of how it would be rated under the Obama ratings proposal.

Inside Higher Ed’s Michael Stratford files this report:

…Education Secretary Arne Duncan and his deputies who are currently developing the metrics for ratings system — a draft of which has been promised by the end of the spring — have said they are keenly aware of the potential for the plan to create such perverse incentives and unintended consequences. In order to prevent that, officials have said, they plan to compare colleges only to peer institutions with similar missions and also include metrics, such as the percentage of Pell Grant recipients, that reward colleges based on the access they already provide to low-income students.

But at least one university says it has already begun denying admission to “risky” applicants — those who don’t meet the institution’s typical minimum standards for SAT scores and GPA — over fears of how it would be rated under the Obama ratings proposal.

The president of that university said in a recent interview that the university is especially worried how the administration’s proposed rating system would judge its graduation rate, which is improving but still under 60 percent.

The university president would speak about the matter only on the condition of anonymity, but the president outlined to Inside Higher Ed how the university had changed its admissions process this year because of the ratings proposal.

Students applying to the university — a mildly selective private nonprofit institution that is tuition-dependent — typically need to meet minimum criteria of a 900 combined math/verbal SAT score and a grade-point average of about 2.8 in order to be considered for admission. However, each year the university selects a portion of applicants who are underqualified by those objective metrics but who show potential or have overcome particular difficulties in their lives. Those applicants are then vetted by a committee of faculty and counselors.

In recent years, the university has enrolled as much as between 18 and 20 percent of its freshman class of about 500 from that population of students, who are then often paired with a tutor or required to take a one-semester course that teaches college success strategies.

“Because of the special support for those students we have been comfortable thinking our commitment to providing opportunities for underserved populations remains a good idea,” the university president said.

This year, however, the university president said that “increased pressure for ‘outcomes’ from the government” has forced the institution to put together an incoming class made up of fewer than 15 percent of that “riskier” pool of applicants.

“Until we know what is happening with the president’s proposed rating system, I am not willing to risk the future of our institution by taking a gamble on these students, even though I believe that they are worth it,” the university president said.