July 20, 2020

Education Dive: Higher Ed examines the future of college admissions tests

Flash back to Twitter in late May and you would unearth hundreds of aggravated students and parents tweeting about their failed attempts to register for the SAT. The ire extended deeper than high schoolers angry over a glitching website. Existing frustrations with the College Board, which runs the SAT, and ACT, the other half of the admissions test duopoly, have been elevated by pandemic-induced restrictions.

With testing sites closed this spring, far fewer students than usual have been able to take the exams, pushing the burgeoning test-optional campaign into warp speed. These shifts could have lingering effects on the higher ed landscape and serve as a tipping point in college admissions. As the global health crisis persists, test makers have been lambasted for focusing more on preserving key revenue streams (the exams) and less on barriers students might encounter as a result of the pandemic.

Based on these complaints, Education Dive: Higher Ed wondered if colleges would scale back their relationships with the College Board and ACT.

The short answer is: not yet.

In June, we took a deep dive into the topic, examining it from a few angles. See our stories here:

To put this in context, the SAT and ACT have been ingrained in applicants minds as a high-stakes piece of college admissions. A good test score gives a competitive edge but also widens the gap between students with fewer resources and opportunities.

The future of admissions tests were already in question as their opponents publicly highlighted the evidence they exacerbate problems related to access and diversity.

A study released earlier this year found that high school grade point averages predict college graduation rates five times more accurately than ACT scores. Some institutions had already removed the requirement permanently, a sign that support for test-flexible policies was building. The pandemic merely pushed the process along.

As it forced testing sites to close, we spoke with many enrollment professionals who were disillusioned with the providers response to these challenges, exemplified by the large collection of colleges going test-optional for students entering in the fall of 2021 and the University of California Systems vote to eliminate the tests .

Now with colleges nationwide figuring out the new normal of campus life, Education Dive: Higher Ed will continue to closely monitor these trends and the decisions that bring students there in the first place.

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