What is an Open Door InstitutionIf you’re currently looking into higher education options, you may have heard of the open door institution with regard to standards of admission. Technically, open door institutions have a policy of accepting all students who hold a high school diploma or GED. Such schools are said to have a “non-competition entrance policy,” referring to the initial purpose of such policies in making higher education more accessible. There are advantages and disadvantages to open admissions. Keep reading to discover more about this type of institution, how it works and whether it may be a consideration for your post-secondary educational needs.

History of Open Door Institutions

The beginning of the movement toward open admissions begin in the mid-20th century. One of the greatest influences on such policy ideas came from the Civil Rights Movement. The motivation was to make higher education more accessible to all citizens, including people of color. The states of New York and California were major players in opening admissions requirements during this era. In 1970, the City University of New York became an open door institution, allowing admissions to all students with a high school diploma or equivalency. CUNY has since ended its open admissions policy in its four-year schools.

Related resource: Top 25 Most Affordable Online Business Graduate Degrees

Criticisms of Open Admissions

Critics do note some problems with open door policies. Some of these arguments state that graduation rates tend to be low when admissions criteria are lacking and that such admissions lower the overall institutional standards. Another argument is that the need for remedial coursework is higher in such cases. It is often the belief that such policies set students who are not academically prepared up for failure. Financial aid grants also tend to be limited at schools with open admissions due to the fact that endowments and other resources are lower than they are at more selective institutions. A decreased graduation rate coupled with fewer opportunities for grant funding can lead to a high percentage of students who leave higher education without a degree, but with a significant load of debt.

Variations to Open Door Policies

Some colleges and universities have entrance requirements that deviate somewhat from open admissions in its purest form, but that still allow for improved access. While most community colleges in the United States require only proof of high school graduation or its equivalent, many four-year institutions have chosen to opt for a variant of such standards. Some have minimum GPA and test score requirements, while others look for high school achievement such as teacher recommendation and participation in activities, in addition to grades. A common practice is that of collaboration between four-year institutions and local community colleges in which students who’ve proven themselves in community college by meeting certain criteria can then gain acceptance to the Bachelor’s level school. Some schools who do maintain open door admissions may move such students to a wait list for popular courses.


Admissions policies such as these can allow students to gain entry to college who may otherwise have had difficulty. While there are critics, an open door institution can structure its admissions in ways that benefit both the school and its students, allowing for higher graduation rates for all.

Related Resources: