College Admissions Inequites

The SAT may never completely go away, but trends show a much less prominent feature on future college applications. Many more colleges are taking a less enthusiastic approach to SAT and ACT scores this year; more than 800 colleges have already deemphasized test scores in the admissions process (see a full list here). There is growing concern that an over-reliance on standardized exams -- and the test prep that affluent families can afford to spend on them -- is leading to a wider socioeconomic gap at the college level.

Bob Schaeffer, co-founder and public education director for the nonprofit National Center for Fair and Open Testing, has long urged colleges to reconsider the entrance exam requirement, saying the tests are stacked against kids without financial resources. "Our biggest concern about the SAT is that the SAT, rather than a gateway to opportunity, reinforces the factors that hold kids back from access to college... [SAT scores] march up -- it varies -- by about 30 to 50 points for every $20,000 in family income."

What's more, high school grades -- not SAT scores -- tend to be a better predictor of college grades. Appropriately, high school counselors have been pushing recently to emphasize more academic assessments like AP exams, SAT subject tests, and International Baccalaureates in the college admissions process. There may soon be a day when we can accurately measure and assess a student's potential with a portfolio of work, not just a number out of 2400.

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