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Letter to the Editor

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Dear Editor,

In the Nov. 5 issue of the Campus Times, the editors recommended a minimum SAT score higher than the 850 combined score apparently proposed by the College of Arts and Sciences (“SAT minimum should be raised”). If the proposal is to not accept applications from students with a score below 850, we think such a policy would be ill-advised.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling has a “Statement of Principles of Good Practice” that contains the following provision, “Members agree that they will … not use test scores as the sole criterion for admission, advising or for the awarding of financial aid …” If we adopt an SAT minimum, it, in effect, becomes “the sole criterion” for admissions and would violate this agreement. The College Board itself, the designers of the test, discourages the use of the SAT in this way. If, on the other hand, the 850 is not advertised, and therefore does not prevent anyone with a score below 850 from applying, but is used instead as one of several criteria by the admissions office, then that is a different matter.

But all this begs an obvious question. What does the SAT measure by itself? The answer is “not much.” It explains a little of the variance in first-year college GPA. (In fact over 800 schools do not require the SAT or ACT.) High school GPA and the rigor of the high school course work are better predictors of success. The best predictors of college success are parents’ education and wealth, and race (but, then again, race is a pretty good predictor of class). Poor, Black, and Latino students do not perform as well as their more affluent white counterparts on the SAT and are less likely to afford and take a prep course. The average SAT score for whites was 1064 and for blacks 857. Latinos’ scores were appreciably lower than whites’ as well. These disparities raise issues about the test itself and the fairness of the policy that we can’t afford to ignore. Institutional discrimination can be, and often is, unintentional.

We agree with the editors that we have a moral and ethical obligation to admit only students whom we believe can do the work, and we’d like to raise the academic standards of the institution. An SAT minimum will not help us to do that any better and may in fact have negative unintended consequences.

Sharon Davis, Professor of Sociology
Hector L. Delgado, Professor of Sociology
Karen Donahue, Professor of Sociology

Glenn Goodwin, Department Associate

Kim Martin, Professor of Anthropology
Ernie Thomson, Professor of Sociology

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