Test-optional policies didn’t do much to diversify college student populations
Before the pandemic, a growing number of colleges stopped requiring applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores, as a way to increase diversity on their campuses. But researchers are finding that the test-optional policy isn’t substantially raising the share of low-income students or students of color at colleges that have tried it.
The latest study, published in the peer-reviewed American Educational Research Journal in April 2021, found that test-optional admissions increased the share of Black, Latino and Native American students by only 1 percentage point at about 100 colleges and universities that adopted the policy between 2005-06 and 2015-16. The share of low-income students, as measured by those who qualify for federal Pell Grants, also increased by only 1 percentage point on these campuses, compared to similar schools that continued to require SAT and ACT scores.
“We’re moving the needle a little bit but it’s a drop in the bucket for what we need,” said Kelly Rosinger, an assistant professor of education at Penn State and a former admissions officer at the University of Georgia, in reaction to this study. Her earlier research on a group of selective liberal arts colleges, which had adopted test-optional policies before 2011, didn’t find any diversity improvements on those campuses.
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