Eliminating Standardized Entrance Exams May Make Colleges More Diverse

By CityTownInfo.com Staff

March 27, 2009

A new study released this week indicates that making SAT or ACT tests optional for admission to colleges and universities would result in significant increases in the percentages of minority and low-income students admitted to institutions of higher learning.

Inside Higher Ed reports that the study, conducted by scholars at Princeton University 's Office of Population Research, concluded that the SAT is a good way to predict the first-year academic success of students. However, the study also pointed out that dropping the SAT as a requirement would lead to increased diversity in school populations.

The findings indicated that at private colleges, the percentage of applicants who are black would increase from 8.3 percent to 11.3 percent if standardized entrance exams were optional. If the SAT and ACT were not considered at all, the percentage of black applicants would rise to 13.8 percent. Likewise, the percentage of Latino students would increase from 7.9 percent to 10.6 percent in an SAT/ACT-optional system and to 12 percent if neither tests were considered.

"The results show unambiguously that increased racial and socioeconomic diversity can be achieved by switching to test-optional policies," the study said.

The Princeton study reinforces a report released last fall by the National Association for College Admission Counseling indicating that SAT and ACT scores are not the best measure for college success and should play a smaller role in the admissions process. While that panel did not call for an end to standardized testing entirely, it suggested that many colleges should consider abandoning the requirement.

"College success is a term of sufficient breadth that it includes degree attainment, a wide range of GPAs, and the acquisition of experiences and skills that will propel a student into the work force, graduate education or responsible citizenship," noted the report, which was quoted in Tennessee's Chattanooga Times Free Press. "For this broad definition of success, standardized admission tests are insufficient predictors of students' likelihood of overall success."

According to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, over 815 colleges and universities in the United States do not require SAT or ACT scores for admission. This week, Sewanee: The University of the South in Tennessee announced that it would be adding its name to the SAT and ACT-optional list.

"I think educators have given standardized tests more power than they actually possess," explained David Lesesne, Sewanee's dean of admission, who was quoted in the Chattanooga Times Free Press. "There is ample evidence suggesting that means other than standardized tests can be useful in predicting college success, and Sewanee will continue to uphold high academic standards in our admission considerations."

School officials cited greater access for low-income and ethnic minority students as one of the reasons behind the decision.

Wake Forest University in North Carolina, which also dropped its SAT and ACT requirement last May, will be hosting a national conference next month entitled "Rethinking Admissions" which will address the latest research on standardized testing.

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