This week the Faculty Senate voted to support a test-optional admission policy, under which students applying to the University would no longer be required to submit their SAT or ACT scores with their applications.
The measure now goes to the Faculty Assembly.
If the full faculty approves the change, it would move on to the Board of Trustees and could go into effect for the fall 2021 application period.
As of this fall, more than 1,000 accredited colleges and universities in the U.S. have gone to test optional admissions as well, according to The National Center for Fair & Open Testing, an advocacy organization that tracks these trends.
According to the Princeton Review, which one of the most prolific test prep organizations: “The purpose of the SAT is to measure a high school student’s readiness for college, and provide colleges with one common data point that can be used to compare all applicants.”
But the test has come under scrutiny in recent years for being discriminatory and advantaging students of certain demographics and those who can afford private test preparation courses and tutoring.
“There are people who have had training on those exams,” said Yousef Daneshbod, associate professor of math at ULV. “If you’re doing multiple choice, for example, you know that if you’re left with two similar answers, you make an educated guess so you have to know these tricks to perform well.”
Danenshbod discussed his own experience: “To get into a university in Iran there is a standardized, national exam you have to take. I did very poorly in that exam, but my GPA was very high, and my school work showed that.”
“In the interest of equity, I would say, make this test optional,” said Jane Beal, associate professor and department chair of English. “The concept of being tested will remain in the educational and professional realm, so you still have to learn. But I hope that more students will be admitted to the University with less stress and more equitable terms, (and) they shouldn’t be disadvantaged by money.”
In advance of the Senate vote, the faculty Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Committee prepared a white paper report at the request of Mary Aguayo, vice president for strategic enrollment management.
The white paper, which recommended the adoption of test optional admissions, reinforced commonly raised concerns with the SAT and ACT.
The study found that among students who identify their demographic, Asian Americans score higher on the exams, white Americans score second highest, Hispanic Americans score third highest, and African Americans came in fourth on average. There is a predictable racial disparity in the examination, the white paper concluded.
The report also found that students from lower income families consistently scored lower than those from more affluent families.
“(Test scores are) not a reflection of a student’s academic intelligence,” said Jessica Alberts, admissions counselor at ULV. “While it is a good gauge to see where a student’s at, there are external factors that need to be taken into consideration.”
Beal added that continuing to use the SAT could disadvantage the very students the University is trying to serve.
“We want to give the greater opportunity to everyone.” Beal said.
The Faculty Assembly will take up the issue in November.
Liliana Castañeda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.