As millions of students adapted to school closures and remote learning during the COVID-19 crisis, many are curious about the future of higher education. Questions like, will young people have the desire to want to return to campus in the fall? Will trade schools become more of an attractive alternative after high school? And, what are colleges and universities going to do to attract students? As academic leaders try to find solutions, the University of California system announced that they will suspend ACT and SAT testing requirements for admission through 2024.
On Thursday, The New York Times reported that the University of California voted to eliminate required standardized testing for its 10 school system. Among the 10 schools are some of the most competitive universities in the nation to get accepted into which include the University of California Berkeley and the University of California, Los Angeles.
In response to school closures, a number of schools like Cornell and Harvard decided to waive SAT and ACT test scores for the 2021 academic school year. In a statement released on Cornell’s website, the university’s undergraduate admission team wrote, “The SARS-COV-2 pandemic emergency has led to many SAT and ACT administration cancellations. Due to this extraordinary circumstance, students seeking to enroll at Cornell University beginning in August 2021 can submit their applications without including the results from ACT or SAT exams. This will be true for both the Early Decision and Regular Decision rounds of review.”
For now, Cornell does not have plans to adopt a permanent test-optional admission policy.
In April, the College Board decided to cancel testing due to the global pandemic. In a statement released to The New York Times, a College Board spokesperson said the organization understands the flexibility universities are offering students. “As many colleges are considering temporary shifts to test-flexible and test-optional admissions policies due to the coronavirus, it is important that they help students understand how these changes will impact admission, access to specialized programs, and scholarships.”
Now, the question stands, does the absence of standardized testing equate to access?
With test scores being waived at top universities, dialogue about inclusion and students from disadvantaged backgrounds having more access to higher ed than before is being sparked.
While standardized testing is available to all students, there is a history of students from low-income households not being able to afford test prep materials and the test if they do not qualify for fee-waivers.
The suspension of tests could open a new door of possibilities for students who might not otherwise had the option to apply for their dream school or a big named university. Nevertheless, questions about affordability, inclusion, and college readiness for those who seek admission to these colleges and universities that have made this allowance still remain. Before schools reopen for the fall there are a number of key factors that are still being figured out at the top as students weigh their options.