Coronavirus crisis begs question, do colleges really need SAT/ACT test industry?

Yes, SAT/ACT standardized testing is an entire industry all its own

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As colleges begin moving away from SAT/ACT requirements due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it brings into question, does higher education need the standardized testing industry?

Because, yes, SAT/ACT standardized testing is an entire industry all its own. As the president of a private, liberal arts university, I can tell you these scores in no way hold the entire weight of a student’s capabilities -- and universities shouldn’t hold students solely to these scores either.

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As of March 2019, a report from IBISWorld found the value of test preparation and tutoring to be at $1.1billion. Exam preparation services alone make up 25 percent of this industry. However, more and more universities would agree that a high school GPA is the best indicator of how a student will perform in college. Now that so many high school students are unable to even take the SAT, many universities are reconsidering the value of these standardized tests.

Nevertheless, it is a large investment in a system that is now being questioned by so many universities. It is a method that higher education in America has embraced now for more than 75 years and for many, the investment in SAT/ACT preparation can be useful.

But, the question is, who is paying for it?

Last summer MarketWatch reported that, “In affluent areas, as many as three-quarters of high school students could be getting extra help to prepare for college admissions tests…. Wealthy parents can spend up to $1,000 on average for preparing their kids for standardized testing.”

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A significant amount of money is spent on SAT/ACT preparation. There are tutors, practice tests, test prep and then the cost of the test. Princeton Review’s one-on-one tutoring sessions can be as high as $2,600 for 10 hours of private tutoring. For many parents, this is the route to get their children into college.

Students from higher-income families easily have the upper hand with these tests and, inevitably, the upper hand in college admissions. This can put the recent college scandal in a whole new light: legal or illegal, when seeking admittance from their choice school higher-income students tend to have the advantage. In numerous ways last year’s scandal has caused countless universities to reconsider their admittance process.

So if only more affluent students can afford the proper tutoring and preparation for these tests, who is limited from earning a strong enough SAT/ACT score to get into these choice schools? Certainly lower-income demographics, but unfortunately most minority students are receiving the brunt end of this standard. As reported last year by Inside Education, minority students continue to fall behind in SAT scoring.

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Universities also must consider if this is a fair scale to determine a student’s academic capacity, particularly when so many students are at a financial disadvantage to begin with.

Many universities that have suspended test requirements or that have become test-optional have seen an increase in diversity. As reported in Measuring Success: Testing, Grades and the Future of College Admissions, published by John Hopkins University Press, these tests fail to bring diversity to universities. Additionally, a study called Defining Success, finds that these tests indeed fail to distinguish skilled applicants who can succeed in higher learning.

The immense amount of money put into SAT/ACT test preparation does not change the quality of some students’ academic capabilities. Yet, as our institutions are changing, parents should begin to give a second thought as to just how much money and weight should be placed on these tests.

While many feel we should get rid of tests entirely, you shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. However, universities are beginning to recognize all the potential they can miss out on by holding to this one standard.

At Southeastern University, while we do hold to criteria for standardized test scores in admittance, we seek to holistically weigh out each student’s academic achievements and potential based on their entire application -- not just standardized tests.

Ideally, as universities begin to change their approach, they will become more balanced in determining admission and our universities will be more equal and balanced overall.

Dr. Kent Ingle presently serves as the President of Southeastern University (SEU) located in Lakeland, Florida. Southeastern University can be found online at seu.edu and their prayer community can be found on pray.com.

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