UW campuses, except Madison, consider dropping SAT and ACT requirement due to COVID-19 pandemic

UW campuses, except Madison, consider dropping SAT and ACT requirement due to COVID-19 pandemic

School test

An anxiety-inducing college admissions requirement — the dreaded standardized test — could be temporarily scrapped at most University of Wisconsin campuses over the next two school years.

UW System President Ray Cross will ask the UW Board of Regents Thursday to temporarily suspend, for all campuses but UW-Madison, a Systemwide policy requiring applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores, according to board meeting materials. The suspension would be in place for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years.

If approved, most System institutions would follow in the footsteps of a growing number of universities across the country that have temporarily waived the testing requirement amid coronavirus uncertainty. Colleges that recently adjusted their admissions policies, including the University of California system, the University of Washington and the University of Oregon, argue that it is an unfair burden on students to take timed tests in these extraordinary circumstances.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling urged colleges and universities last week to reassess their standardized testing policies after testing companies proposed offering at-home exams if high schools don’t reopen or large gatherings are not permitted. Education experts say this solution would disproportionately affect lower-income and underrepresented students who may not have internet access or a quiet space at home to take the test.

UW-Madison, however, will continue its longstanding policy requiring applicants to submit scores. It’s unclear whether the university requested exclusion from the proposed policy or if the directive came from UW System leaders. Spokespersons for both the System and UW-Madison did not respond to an email inquiry seeking clarification.

Hundreds of other universities across the country dropped testing requirements even before COVID-19 arrived. About a third of Wisconsin’s private colleges have scrapped ACT or SAT requirements, many in recent years.

Test-optional advocates say eliminating the requirement evens the playing field for lower-income students, pointing to research that found institutions that dropped ACT or SAT mandates saw increases in the number of minority, low-income and first-generation students applying.

Those in favor of testing requirements, including the organizations that administer the tests, say the exams are a good predictor of college readiness.

The potential suspension of the testing requirement at all campuses but Madison comes on the heels of other steps the System has taken to ease the application process for students. These include accepting unofficial transcripts and cutting the $50 application fee in half at all campuses except Madison. At the System’s two-year branch campuses, the application fee will be waived entirely if students apply between June 5 and June 15.

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