At a time when race-based admissions are at the forefront of public officials’ agendas, new data published last week suggests that the path to a college degree will soon become one that models equity and fairness. This is good news for our graduating seniors and the quality of higher education, experts note.
The latest tally by FairTest, a group seeking to dismantle the misuses and flaws of standardized testing, reveals that more than 1,900 U.S. colleges and universities aren’t requiring SAT or ACT scores for fall 2023 admissions. More than 200 colleges have made this decision since the fall of 2020. The current statistic represents 83% of four-year institutions.
At least 78% of higher education institutions have already extended these policies through the fall of 2024 in anticipation of the pending U.S. Supreme Court decision surrounding affirmative action.
“Admissions offices increasingly recognize that test requirements, given their negative disparate impact on Black and Latinx applicants, are ‘race-conscious’ factors, which can create unfair barriers to access higher education,” FairTest Executive Harry Feder said in a statement. “They also know that standardized exams are, at best, weak predictors of academic success and largely unrelated to college-ready skills and knowledge.
“If the Supreme Court bars affirmative action, we expect that very few schools will continue to require the ACT or SAT. And it is likely that many more graduate programs will eliminate requirements for exams such as the GRE, GMAT, LSAT and GMAT.”
Colleges began removing GRE requirements as early as 2019, like Yale, which cited its potential to “skew” an applicant pool. Similarly, The New York Times reported that Boston University’s Black and Hispanic student demographic grew when it removed its GRE requirement and did not experience any loss in student performance.
Coincidentally, Educational Testing Service (ETS) recently announced its decision to cut the GRE in half to improve the test takers’ experience and reduce anxiety and fatigue. ETS did not mention how the pending decision on affirmative action or colleges’ concern with student equity molded the revamped GRE. However, Alberto Acereda, the associate vice president for global higher education at ETS, argued how important quantitative metrics are to streamline a changing admissions process and its contribution to student diversity.
“For institutions, the shorter GRE will continue to empower admissions professionals with critical data on a candidate’s graduate-level skills, as the only truly objective measure in a holistic admissions process,” said Acereda in an email. “The shorter GRE General Test will also help programs and schools choose diverse candidates who have the foundational skills needed to enrich their programs and have a successful graduate, business or law school experience.”
Conversely, FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer believes institutions’ transitions to test-optional policies are a race-neutral solution to enhancing campus diversity.
“Though not a full substitute for affirmative action, they are important tools in a robust set of holistic missions strategies to improve access for under-represented applicants.”
Per the data, there’s no sign of these strategies slowing down. Here’s an in-depth tally provided by FairTest that reflects the growing number of four-year institutions adopting test-optional policies since the start of the pandemic:
- 1,075 ACT/SAT-optional schools pre-pandemic (March 15, 2020)
- 1,700 schools did not require scores for the fall of 2020
- 1,775 schools did not require scores for the fall of 2021
- 1,825 schools did not require scores for the fall of 2022
- 1,904 schools don’t require scores for the fall of 2023
The long-awaited Supreme Court decision may very well be “the death knell” for standardized admissions tests, said Schaeffer.