The University of Utah may soon take another step away from open admissions toward more stringent entrance requirements, if it adopts a proposed admissions index that would academically rank prospective freshmen.

The U. Institutional Council is considering a proposal that would use an index, a composite of a student's high school grade point average and ACT or SAT test scores, to determine the preparedness of an entering freshman.A student whose composite score failed to meet the index standard would be denied entrance. If denied admission to the university, a student could attend a community college and then transfer to the U. if he completed a minimum of 36 hours with a 2.2 grade point average. Or he could enroll as a non-matriculated student in evening courses only through the Division of Continuing Education, where he would be required to successfully 18 hours of classes before he could reapply for admittance.

The proposal would take effect fall quarter 1989 if adopted by the council. The council received the proposal Monday but decided to delay action until its May meeting.

U. Provost James Clayton said a new admissions index, a major goal of President Chase N. Peterson, is an attempt to increase the likelihood that a student can successfully complete course work at the U. He said it also could help bring the U. enrollment in line with a master plan of the State Board of Regents.

In December 1986 the regents adopted a master plan that seeks to redistribute college-bound students so more attend community colleges, said Vicki Varela, Utah System of Higher Education public affairs officer. The shift to the less expensive community colleges comes as an effort to meet students' educational needs while more efficiently using higher education's resources, she said.

Utah's enrollment pattern differs from most states, she said. The bulk of college students in other states go to community colleges, while the majority of Utah students pursue a degree at a university.

Clayton told the council the proposal is another dimension in the U.'s move to more stringent admissions standards. Last fall the U. implemented new entrance standards for prospective freshmen. They required completion of a more stringent high school curriculum. Director of admissions Stayner Lanward said the U. denied entrance last fall to 300 who hadn't completed the necessary high school courses.

Before the new standards, an open admissions policy let the U. accept all freshmen who had high school diplomas.

The proposed index would mean a student would have to demonstrate reasonable competency in the required high school curriculum, he said.

Last fall's change in entrance requirements has already cut the U.'s percentage of freshmen on academic probation, Clayton said. Before fall quarter 1987, one-third of the freshmen were on probation with grade point averages below 2.0 or "C." That dropped to 25 percent last fall.

The combination of the required curriculum and index would sort out students who are better prepared for the university, the provost said. "We don't want to set up students for failure. We want to guide them toward success, and probation is not success."

He called the proposed index conservative, saying it would basically admit all students who reasonably could be expected to succeed.

Landward said the proposed index would allow exceptions. A minimum index requirement could be waived for up to 5 percent of the freshmen applicants. He said this would allow the U. to accept talented culturally disadvantaged and ethnic minority students whose academic records didn't meet the standards.