Is this good??? ‘Hanover College is latest to not require SAT, ACT’

The Courier-Journal echoes a report from its sister paper, the Indianapolis Star, that another college in this country will no longer require applicants to take either the ACT or SAT college entrance tests. According to the article:

“Hanover College in Southern Indiana will join nearly 1,000 public and private accredited institutions across the nation that have opted for a ‘test optional’ or ‘test flexible’ admissions policy.”

While this will probably reduce student anxiety in a teen population that increasingly seems stressed (think suicides, for example), are there possible shortcomings in colleges dropping such testing from their admissions policies?

We at BIPPS think there are some problems, and we have information to back up our concerns.

First of all, one factor students normally can consider when shopping for a college is how their ACT or
SAT scores stack up against the average for students who get admitted to each college (a number of web sites such as this one offer such information). This can help college aspirants create a more reasonable and efficient application plans.

If there are no valid average ACT or SAT scores for a school, students can face more challenges. They might wind up applying to schools where they really have no chance of admission, wasting time and money while the college winds up with inflated applications versus admissions statistics. Incredibly, some charge colleges desire such inflated application statistics because these can help make the school stand out more than it really should.

Another major problem for colleges that primarily rely only on high school grade point averages for admissions is that grading has inflated in numerous high schools across the nation. Along these lines, the Star’s article says Jaslee Caryola, a College Board spokeswoman, claims, “A student’s high school GPA is increasingly subject to inflation.”

There are valid concerns about grade inflation here in Kentucky. There is pressure on grades due to implications for KEES scholarships and actual college admission opportunities (See, for example, comments on Page viii in A Study of the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship Program).

Grade awards in Kentucky now are even biased by race. A disturbing study by the Kentucky Department of Education we looked at earlier this year shows that course grades for Kentucky’s black students tend to be one full letter grade higher than for whites who get the same test scores on state assessments. This compellingly indicates that many black students’ grades are inflated in the Bluegrass State. Absent additional data from the ACT or SAT, such biased grading policies can give minority students an unfair advantage in the college admissions process. Even worse, these students can actually be set up for expensive college failure thanks to such inaccurate grading.

By the way, not all colleges agree with the action just taken at Hanover. The Star interviewed Pamela Horne, vice provost for enrollment manager at Purdue University, about this issue. Horne said the ACT and SAT provide a “common yardstick.” She says, “We do conduct annual validity studies, and we have found that the ACT and the SAT do add incremental validity to first year success.” She added, “There is a relationship between those scores and how students perform during their first year.” So, this highly regarded school knows that grade inflation is an issue and that checking ACT or SAT scores can help make better student selections. Certainly, Purdue isn’t totally relying on ACT or SAT for admissions decisions, but these tests do improve the process.

Something the article didn’t mention is that in some of the schools that don’t require the ACT or SAT, applicants must either take a proprietary test created by that college or complete other actions such as submitting a writing sample. According to the NY Times, Middlebury College in Vermont is one example of a school that doesn’t require ACT or SAT but still does require testing.

Here in Kentucky, while Transylvania University no longer requires the SAT or ACT, applicants still have to submit a written essay.

So, “testing” really isn’t gone at all from those schools, either, even if they don’t specifically require the ACT or SAT.

But, when a school like Transylvania no longer requires the SAT or ACT, the average scores for students that do submit them no longer accurately reflect the overall average capability of students who attend the school. And, to reiterate, that can make it harder for aspiring college applicants to figure out if they are even competitive to enter such schools. Making things harder for students doesn’t seem like a good idea to us.