The University of Utah was given permission Friday to use an admissions index to academically rank incoming freshmen, but the school won't be able to start the process until 1991 - a year later than the U. wanted.

Meeting at Weber State College, the State Board of Regents approved the index, which would be a composite of the student's high school grade point average and ACT (r SAT) scores. U. administrators said it would be used to determine a student's readiness for the university, redirecting students who couldn't perform academically at the university level to community colleges.However, the regents said the U. can't begin using the index until 1991 - a year later than the proposal approved by the U. Institutional Council. The delay was an attempt to appease U. student body officers, who have argued against the proposal throughout the approval process and urged its delay, if not its defeat.

U. student body officers Michael Kaly and Brian Robertson asked that the index not be initiated until 1993. They said high school students are unaware of the proposed change, and the delay would give high school principals and counselors adequate time to inform students of what is expected.

U. Provost James L. Clayton told the regents' Curriculum and Planning Committee that the concept has been discussed off and on for 20 years but has actively been pursued for the last two years. High school principals and counselors were informed of the expected change within the last year, he said.

The student officers said their informal survey shows many still don't know about the index.

Clayton agreed that might be true, but he called the argument irrelevant because students have always known they are expected to have good grades and test scores to enter the university. He said he doesn't believe the index will be a great motivator for a student to improve his grades, and it has been shown that ACT scores don't change much on the second or third tries.

The provost said the index "would finish the job" of academically improving freshmen that was started last fall when the U. upgraded its entrance requirements. That move dropped the percentage of freshmen on probation - with GPAs below 2.0 or "C" - from one-third of the freshmen class to one-quarter.

"We've got the breadth. What we need is the depth, some excellence, some standards. What we're doing is catching up," Clayton said.

Regent Clifford S. LeFevre pointed out that some universities rely on an index. He said an index makes sense because it would allow students to use their time and money more effectively by attending the school best suited to their needs.

Robertson said California uses an index, but it works because the state funnels students who aren't predicted to do well at the university into a good junior college-community system.

His remarks offended several Utah community college presidents. College of Eastern Utah President Michael A. Petersen called Utah's community colleges strong, saying they work hard to deal with students who had poor academic records in high schools.

Acting President Lucille Stoddard of Utah Valley Community College said she sees the index as a "humane move" to direct students who would fail at the university into programs where they can succeed.