The CAP enrollment system must adapt given increased demand

Abby Springs

Each year, tens of thousands of students apply to UT-Austin dreaming of higher education on the Forty Acres. Each year, tens of thousands of students are denied.

But there’s another route to UT. The Coordinated Admission Program, or CAP, allows eligible in-state applicants to spend their freshman year at another UT System school. If they complete the coursework requirements and maintain a 3.2 GPA, UT guarantees admission into most majors in the College of Liberal Arts. If not, they can choose to stay at their UT System school.

As the number of applicants to UT increases, the number of in-state students offering CAP increases as well. As a result, choosing a CAP school has become a first-come, first-served lottery system. Texas Admissions must take steps to improve the CAP enrollment system to ensure each student has a fair shot of getting into the CAP school of their choice. 

This year, the CAP application form was released in early February. Most colleges don’t notify students of their decisions until March, meaning students who are on the fence about CAP must fill out the application even if they aren’t sure they want to commit to UT. 

Jeffrey Wang, a computer science and business honors freshman, created r/UTAustinAdmissions, an online forum to discuss UT admissions. He said he has seen firsthand the problems with the CAP enrollment process.

“This is a huge issue because people will preemptively select their CAP school and then drop out of the CAP program and go to another school that accepted them,” Wang said. According to Wang, this takes away spots from other students.

In an email, the admissions office wrote, “The online system does not allow a participant to switch campuses,” and “additional spots do not become available” due to yield rates. If a student cannot get the CAP school of their choice, they cannot switch even if a student at another school drops out.

Because all prospective CAP students fill out the application at the same time, high demand CAP schools such as UT-San Antonio fill up quickly. To compensate, the website must be able to handle the heavy load — a task it failed at this year. 

Luke Walker, a high school senior from Coppell, Texas, decided to enroll in CAP for the 2019-2020 school year. But when he went to select his top choice, UTSA, he faced website crashes and technical issues. 

“I submitted the first form in about 27 to 28 seconds,” Walker said. “I let it load, and then about a minute after loading, I hit refresh. It said it had crashed and that it was experiencing issues. When I went back and refreshed the other screen, the UTSA option had disappeared.”

Walker was forced to choose UT-Arlington, his second choice. He isn’t alone — one parent on an admissions blog commented that their son “clicked his choice and submitted the page within mere seconds, only to receive a server timeout error. By the time the page refreshed, his choice of CAP school was gone — all seats filled.” 

However, when asked about website problems, the admissions office wrote, “We did not witness, nor were we notified of, any technical issues with the system for the fall 2019 selection process.” 

To improve the CAP process, Texas Admissions should delay the application date until April. This would ensure only students who want to participate in CAP enroll, giving students a fair shot at getting the school of their choice. 

If this isn’t possible, the infrastructure must be improved to detect and solve technical issues. Texas Admissions could handle applications similar to how freshman class registration is handled — give students different application times and proportionally reserve seats in the different schools.

No matter which solution works best, Texas Admissions must take steps to improve the CAP enrollment process. Otherwise, well-qualified Texas students may just take their talents elsewhere.

Springs is a government freshman from Dallas.