MOORHEAD - After getting an acceptance letter for the 2013 fall semester, more than 200 applicants to Minnesota State University Moorhead recently were notified they actually didn't get in and likely won't be accepted to the university.
University spokesman David Wahlberg said just more than 200 prospective students were told they were admitted for the fall of 2013, despite the fact that they didn't meet the school's own requirements for automatic admission. The "error" was caught last week, he said, and letters were sent out late last week informing them of the mix-up.
"We feel really terrible about this situation," he said. "We can imagine how disheartening a letter like that would be, to be told on one occasion that you've been accepted and on another occasion that we needed to rescind that acceptance."
Wahlberg said the university started sending out fall of 2013 acceptance letters in the fall of 2012. But the mistake wasn't caught until last week, when the new interim admissions director and interim vice president for enrollment management were familiarizing themselves with MSUM's policies.
"They looked at the files and it didn't seem to make sense to them how that happened," he said. "They looked at it further and realized that a mistake had been made."
Wahlberg said university officials are still taking steps to correct those mistakes, and to figure out just what happened. But he said the problem boils down to the school not being uniform in applying its acceptance standards to these applicants.
Prospective students can gain automatic admission to MSUM either by earning an ACT score of 21 or above, or by ranking in the top half of their high school class and getting at least a 17 on the ACT. Students who don't meet these requirements still can be accepted by a committee after an individual review process.
Wahlberg said the applicants affected by this mistake were told they could request an individual review, meaning committee members would consider other factors that may explain why a student had a lower than required ACT score or GPA and show they still are ready for college.
But that process doesn't guarantee acceptance, and President Edna Szymanski told The Forum last August that the university was trying to admit fewer students this way as one of its efforts to beef up its graduation rate.
"If you admit students, you want them to be able to succeed," she said last summer. "Bringing in students who don't have that high of a probability to succeed, in my mind, that's wrong."
About 15 percent of MSUM's freshmen last fall were admitted through the review process after not meeting the automatic requirements. Szymanski was in meetings Monday in St. Paul and unavailable to comment.
Wahlberg said the affected applicants also were told of a second option - they can take courses at the Minnesota State Community and Technical College campus in Moorhead and eventually apply for a transfer to MSUM.
"We've tried really hard to apologize to these individuals and then make sure that we're very clear about what are their options," he said. "We hope very much all of these individuals continue with their plans for higher education, either at MSUM or M State or another institution of their choice."