It has long been a point of contention: are colleges and universities going “test optional” to encourage diversity or to improve their rankings in the U.S. News & World Report college guide? That argument may be beside the point as the University of Chicago has announced it would no longer mandate ACT/SAT scores as part of their admissions requirements.
The significance of this announcement is examined by Eric Hoover, in a recent article for The Chronicle of Higher Education entitled “An Ultra-Selective University Just Dropped the ACT/SAT. So What?” The so what which “caused an admissions-obsessed planet to wobble” is that Chicago is the first “high-profile” institution to make this change, perhaps signaling the beginning of the end of the testing requirement at other top tier institutions. “Several deans and college counselors predict that the move will soon prompt other high-profile colleges to abandon their testing requirements. At the very least, the national conversation about testing has changed, probably for good.”
Whether it’s a trend or just a conversation, for Chicago, this move is part of a wide ranging initiative known as UChicago Empower. This program is part of a larger effort by the university to increase access and to be more inclusive in their admissions decisions. UChicago Empower is focused on three main areas. The first of which is “Providing free technology and greater flexibility in the admissions process to empower applicants and create a level playing field for all students.” The program makes test results optional, introduces two-minute video introductions and other “non-standard” options adding “new flexibility” to UC’s application process.
Other enhancements to the admissions process:
- An expanded financial aid programs including full tuition scholarships for students whose families make less than $125,000 per year
- All first-generation students get $20,000 in scholarships over four years and a guaranteed paid summer internship
- Expanded funding for veterans, police officers and firefighters
- Mentoring and support for underserved students
Hoover goes on to analyze the possible effects this announcement will have on other colleges and universities as well as the impact it may have on those who create the tests. Other questions include whether or not being test optional will actually increase access for underrepresented middle and low income, and minority students or create a more competitive environment among those students who don’t provide test scores. And finally, whether or not those institutions with the same prestige and endowment of UC will choose to go test optional to further diversify their campuses.
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