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In a recent interview with the Union-Tribune, San Diego State University president Stephen Weber said he has the perfect plan to improve the quality of education in San Diego County. He believes that dropping SDSU’s preference for local students will motivate the region’s students to do better in high school if they want to attend SDSU.

Weber believes that students who are in the local service area of the school, which is south of State Route 56 and all of Imperial County, don’t feel like they have to work hard to get into SDSU.

He told the U-T, “You could say a local kid has to be just as good as a kid from any other place to get into San Diego State and first thing you would see is you would have better local schools. And it wouldn’t cost a penny.”

Weber seems to take it for granted that local students truly want to go to SDSU and have worked to achieve the minimum qualifications for admission there. If that were true and SDSU changed its admissions preferences, students who would be admitted because they live in San Diego would have to work a bit harder to meet new guidelines in order to get into SDSU. This small increase in difficulty would motivate students and thus lead to a spurt in growth to the overall quality of education in the greater part of the county. But this really isn’t going to be the case.

If a local student only met the minimum requirements for admission to SDSU, then they have already shown a lack of scholastic motivation. They applied to SDSU because they realized they would have a decent chance of admission.

An increase in eligibility requirements would not motivate such a student to do better. Rather, it would keep them from applying to SDSU. Instead, they’d enroll in a local community college, or wouldn’t continue their education at all.

Of course, they would always have the option of attempting admission into one of San Diego’s private universities, or could look for education outside of San Diego, but these students will still be in a precarious situation throughout the process nontheless.

Weber’s plan isn’t going to be a “magic bullet” that will improve schools throughout San Diego county. It might only lead to increased enrollment in San Diego’s community colleges.

Its most positive effect will mostly be felt at SDSU where the quality of entering students will increase, which would likely lead to increased graduation rates and a better workforce coming out of the school. It will also likely increase SDSU’s reputation as a very good state school. Students from all over the nation would come to the school to earn a degree with a great appreciation rate.

It would also be a plus for SDSU because the school would, presumably, begin accepting more out-of-state students who have to pay more for tuition, which would increase the school’s budget.

Although Weber is wrong in believing that his plan is the ready-made cure-all which will greatly improve education in San Diego county, his plan will bring more talent to San Diego, which might, in the long run, begin to positively rub off onto San Diego’s education standards.

As the current president of SDSU, Weber cannot be blamed for supporting a plan which will so positively impact his school. This show of self-interest is a natural component of human nature; Weber has no need to attempt to disguise it from what it is. The plan will ultimately still benefit San Diego, even if it is at the expense of those local students who will no longer be able to attain acceptance to SDSU.

Stefan Popov is a senior at High Tech High International and an intern at voiceofsandiego.org. He plans to study economics and philosophy at Williams College after graduation. Interns can be reached on Twitter at @vosdinterns and in email at vosdinterns@gmail.com.

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