Will U.S. News answer calls to exclude SAT/ACT scores from rankings?

A group of higher education organizations and experts recently published an open letter urging U.S. News & World Report to drop SAT and ACT scores from the calculations used for its “Best Colleges” lists. In last year’s U.S. News rankings, incoming students’ average test scores accounted for 5 percent of each school’s rating.

‘Simply the right thing to do’

Published by the New America think tank and signed by the National Association for College Admission Counseling; the Institute for Higher Education Policy; Education Trust; the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice; Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce; and others, the letter contends that removing SAT and ACT scores from the equation is “simply the right thing to do,” considering pandemic-related hurdles and long-standing concerns.

“Using average scores of incoming students to rank an institution has never made sense, but is even more preposterous during a deadly pandemic,” they write.

The authors point out that COVID-19 has limited students’ access to testing opportunities. As a result, most U.S. colleges and universities went test-optional during the pandemic, and many have extended those policies temporarily or indefinitely, complicating comparisons.

Related: Latest U.S. News rankings factor in graduate indebtedness, test-blind schools >

The letter also references concerns that predate the pandemic, asserting that “standardized admissions test scores say nothing about the quality of a college’s education, only how selective their admissions process is.” Creating an incentive for colleges to prioritize SAT/ACT scores in admissions decisions also disadvantages students of color and low-income students, who are less likely to have access to test-prep resources, the authors say.

Saying that the college rankings’ “impact on consumers and institutions alike cannot be overstated,” the letter urges U.S. News to follow in the footsteps of the Fiske Guide to Colleges. The guide’s namesake editor Edward B. Fiske in March announced that it would drop test scores from consideration “for the foreseeable future,” saying that “to do otherwise would be a disservice to our readers.”

Revisiting an earlier pledge

Inside Higher Ed reports that U.S. News has not yet commented on the letter—but notes that, years ago, it did signal a willingness to reconsider the test scores’ inclusion.

Responding to a 2008 report from NACAC urging U.S. News to drop test scores from the rankings, the magazine had written on its website that “if a meaningful percentage of colleges drop their SAT or ACT requirements for admission, then U.S. News will change our ranking model. So far, that is not happening.” NACAC CEO Angel B. Pérez told Inside Higher Ed that his organization is now asking the magazine to fulfill that commitment.

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