Teaching Policies & Resources — Selective and Limited Enrollment Policies and Guidelines


Any student formally admitted to the College of Liberal Arts as a degree candidate may declare a major in any degree program of the College except where explicit restrictions are approved in accord with the guidelines and procedures described below.

Because The University of Iowa is a public institution with a state-mandated mission of open access, it is against the policy of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to grant selective admission status to any program. Exceptions may be made to this policy only when the quality of education for students in the major is compromised without such a policy or when professional considerations mandate a selective major.

These guidelines and procedures apply to any formal policy that limits access to an entire degree program or to a significant number of courses in a department or program. They do not apply to limits on individual courses imposed by virtue of necessary prerequisites nor do they apply to capacity limitations on individual courses.


Proposals for selective admission or limited enrollment policies should be addressed to the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education and to the Undergraduate Educational Policy and Curriculum Committee.

Before creating the proposal, it is strongly recommended that the department meet with the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education to discuss feasibility and models of successful proposals.

Generally, very few such proposals are approved by the Undergraduate Educational Policy and Curriculum Committee (UEPCC) and then only when the proposal documents extreme circumstances. When considering such proposals, UEPCC weighs not only the situation of the department requesting a selective admissions major, but the impact of the decision on the College as a whole since a change in one major affects other majors as well.

Once a proposal has been formulated, it is submitted to the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, who makes a recommendation to UEPCC for approval or disapproval. If UEPCC and then the Faculty Assembly approve the proposal, the Dean refers the matter to the Provost for final approval.

Departments formulating selective admissions policies ordinarily may not impose graduation requirements that differ from those of the College as a whole.

Policies should ensure that a reasonable number of introductory courses remain available for exploration by students outside the major. Frequent and consistent offering of the department's General Education CLAS Core classes should especially be maintained.


Proposals should describe the reasons for instituting such a policy. Valid reasons include the following:

Professional considerations. If the field is subject to certification by an outside agency or accreditation standards requiring quantitative or qualitative limits on admission to the field, the proposal should discuss these standards and show that selective admissions is required to meet them.

Enrollment management and educational quality. The proposal should explain how the number of majors or enrollments in the department exceeds available resources. The proposal might use examples, data, or other strategies to document that the quality of education has been compromised because of the full-time faculty to major (or enrollment) ratio. The proposal might examine some of the following issues, if relevant:

  • Classroom experiences of students and/or of faculty
  • Advisor/student ratio and other aspects of advising
  • Student responses to the department and major
  • Graduation rates within the program

At least some of the following areas should be considered and/or implemented to help manage enrollment before a department proposes a selective admissions policy. The proposal should discuss the strategies the department has implemented.

  • Grades and grading, especially distribution of grades in comparison to College guidelines.
  • Curricular changes, including those that ease pressure on over-subscribed or required courses.
  • Other curriculum changes such as creation of a gateway course or courses with a required minimum GPA.
  • Addition of required courses from other departments.
  • Attention to staffing, class size, format, mode of delivery, and regularity of course offerings to maximize enrollment potential. (This might include making full use of summer /winter sessions and Saturday /Evening offerings as well as rotating graduate course offerings.)


Proposals should specify the criteria to be used in the selection process. Departments may use flexible criteria for admission to a major or may provide guaranteed admission based on a specific GPA standard. Departments may also use a combination of the two methods for accepting students. The following are suggestions for criteria that might prove flexible and fair:

  • Completion of 30 semester hours before declaration of the major, with at least 12 semester hours taken at Iowa.
  • Completion of specific courses with a required GPA.
  • Achievement of a stated grade-point average in additional areas. (Possibilities include the UI GPA, the cumulative GPA, the GPA in the major, the GPA in specific gateways courses, or combinations of these.)
  • Application with statement of interest and/or experience documenting special talents, abilities, or backgrounds that suggest promise.
  • Consideration of issues of diversity.
  • Consideration of special circumstances affecting the background and performance of students.

In addition, it should be stated that the number of students to be admitted during a given year will depend on the resources that are potentially available so as to ensure a quality education. Statement of a particular number of admitted students should be avoided.

Information for Students

The proposal should outline the procedure for students applying to the major.

The department must clearly specify the deadlines by which applications should be made, the process (committee or other means) by which judgments on admission will be made, and the appeal process. Some statements related to the possibility and process for reapplication and reconsideration should be included.

Implementation for the new selective admissions procedures should (a) specify a timetable that allows for sufficient lead time and (b) provide for students currently in the program. One year is generally recommended.

If the proposal is approved, descriptive information about the application process should be available to prospective students in order to provide academic and career planning. For example, the types of GPAs and other factors that have generally resulted in admission should be developed as guidelines to advise students about their chances for admission to the program. Such statements should make clear that these are only guidelines and that meeting them does not guarantee admission unless there are guaranteed-admission criteria.

When the application process is finished, students also have a right to know how many students were admitted to the major, the criteria used, the number of applicants, and the overall competition. Such information helps students to formulate another academic plan, if needed. Students must also be given clear information on the appeal process, including who may appeal, why, the format of the appeal, and the deadline.

Review of Selective Admissions Programs

Given the University of Iowa 's state-mandated mission of open access, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences grants selective admission status to a program without outside certification considerations only until a better solution may be found.

Consequently, each approved proposal will be reviewed every four years by UEPCC to see whether the selective admissions procedure should be continued. If the department wants to continue the selective policy, it will be asked to submit a report containing the following information:

  • The rationale for continuing the selective or limited enrollment.
  • The criteria used in selecting majors or limiting enrollment.
  • Application forms or other materials used in the process.
  • All procedures used for communicating selection criteria to prospective students. Copies of materials distributed to students and undergraduate advisors should be included.
  • The procedure for students to appeal rejections or denials of admission to the major.
  • The number of majors and undergraduate course enrollments for each semester in which selective admission or limited enrollment has been practiced.
  • The cumulative GPA of students in the major.
  • The GPA distribution in a number of key courses in comparison with College guidelines.
  • The information requested in Appendix A for each semester and year in which selective admission or limited enrollment has been practiced.
  • Any other procedure limiting enrollment in classes.

At the conclusion of the review, UEPCC will notify the department of its decision, which may take one of three forms: (a) continuing approval of the policy in its current form, (b) a request for modifications in the policy, or (c) discontinuation the policy.

If a selective admissions or limited enrollment policy is to be discontinued, the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education will work with the department to set an appropriate timetable for phasing out the selective status, usually no longer than one academic year. The dean will notify the Provost and the Office of the Registrar of the change.

Other Considerations

It is the responsibility of the department to notify the Admissions Office and the Academic Advising Center of the new policy or of the discontinuation of the policy. The departmental web site, the General Catalog, and any other materials used by the department must also be updated. The department might also want to consider additional methods of notifying students of the policy.

Any changes in approved policies must be sent to the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education; substantive changes will be referred to UEPCC.