Test-optional policies in spotlight at NACAC conference as UC announces study

Several hundred college leaders gathered last week at the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC) annual conference for a session on test-optional policies. According to Inside Higher Ed, the discussion “focused on data and success stories” that support institutions’ movement away from requiring applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores.

Organizers noted that 2019 will mark 50 years since Bowdoin College went test-optional, a policy now in place at more than 1,000 four-year institutions. The University of Chicago recently became the first elite institution to adopt the approach.

Speaking at the session, Whitney Soule, dean of admissions and financial aid at Bowdoin, said the college has analyzed the policy and found that admissions decisions made without considering test scores have predicted college success as well as decisions that account for those scores. Fellow panelist Andrew B. Palumbo, dean of admissions and financial aid at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), meanwhile, noted such policies’ impact on enrollment. He said WPI’s 2007 decision to drop its testing requirement has coincided with a 156 percent increase in Black and Latino student enrollment and an 81 percent increase in female enrollment.

University of California to study whether standardized tests predict college success

The NACAC gathering came on the heels of an announcement by the University of California that it will study how accurately admissions testing predicts student success. Janet Napolitano, president of the UC system, requested the study, citing “unprecedented growth” in applications. The UC system—which has not yet adopted a test-optional policy—receives more than 200,000 applications annually.

Proponents of the study noted how admissions testing can disproportionately affect students of color and those from low-income families. “Research continues to mount that demonstrates the poor predictive quality of standardized admissions and placement exams,” Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of the California Community Colleges, told Inside Higher Ed, adding that “scores on the SAT and ACT more closely correlate with wealth rather than college readiness.”

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