As graduation bells ring across the country, high school seniors may be cheering, but so may juniors after learning that two more colleges dropped SAT and ACT testing requirements for admission this week.
About 750 schools are now “test optional.” The latest schools to drop the tests as necessary for admission are Smith College and Wake Forest University. U.S. News & World Report ranks Wake Forest as the 30th best university in the country, and Smith as the 17th best liberal arts college, so we’re not talking obscure institutions here. So far, though, most schools that have dropped SAT and ACT have been smaller outfits. The University of California schools considered dropping the tests in 2001 but in the end did not.
Why are schools dropping the tests?
In 2006 American students posted the lowest average score on the SAT in 31 years.
The scores dropped again in 2007. The College Board, which administers the test, says the drop in scores was due to changes in test-taking habits, but there has been much debate through the years over whether these tests truly predict academic success – and hence if colleges and universities should use them as a benchmark for admission.
Others question the fairness of the test, saying that some students are at an inherent disadvantage because of their background—income level, parents’ education, quality of high school, etc. Wake Forest says they hope to attract a broader pool of applicants by eliminating the tests.
U.S. college graduate statistics
- Just 30% of U.S. adults over the age of 25 say they have a bachelor’s degree
- College graduates make about $25,000 more annually than those with high school diplomas
- 33% of women 25-29 years old had earned a BA in 2007 vs 26% of men
The big pictureWe don’t know yet whether this is the start of a trend. While some students may opt not to take the SAT, others are agonizing over whether to take both it and the ACT, to give them a leg up. Interestingly, another education issue came under scrutiny this week—President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, which imposes sanctions on schools that fail to meet certain performance standards. In a speech in Colorado, Barack Obama outlined plans to revamp the program while McCain sees its Merits (read about their stances here). Bottom line, test or no test, getting more kids into college is important, and so is improving their education along the way.