Abolishing the SAT/ACT requirement won’t ruin higher education

by Natalie Wilson | staff writer

It’s no secret that the use of SAT and ACT tests for college admissions is inherently biased, so it is an unexpected and positive consequence of this pandemic that such testing has largely been scrapped for 2021-2022 admissions to most U.S. colleges. 

“There are many students who have simply been unable to take the test, despite registering multiple times, because test dates continue to be canceled due to COVID-19,” according to Ruth C. Schauble, Whitworth’s Associate Director of Admissions. “For students applying for Fall 2021, many don’t have any standardized test scores to send at all.” 

The pandemic has taken test scores off the table for many prospective college students. The decision to move away from requiring them is a change that is long overdue and that will make the college admissions process much more equitable.  So why should this requirement change be limited to the span of the pandemic? 

The SAT/ACT naturally favors students from wealthy backgrounds, leaving poorer students – typically students of color – at a disadvantage. A 2013 research study  found that “the difference in SAT scores between high-and low-income students was twice as large among black students compared to white students.” The research study revealed that disparity in test scores is strongly correlated to family income, primarily affecting low-income communities of color — making the test unfair for people from lower-income households.  

Whitworth University became “test optional” in 2008, which means that a student can choose to submit a score to bolster their application, but it is not required. The change was made with the goal to remove barriers blocking students from applying, particularly for students of color, who are underrepresented here. Whitworth has since increased its POC population from just over 10 percent in 2008 to nearly 38 percent in 2019. 

The National Association for College Counseling found that “high school GPA had a stronger correlation with college success both in terms of college cumulative GPA and graduation rate.” Whitworth has come to the same conclusion, according to Schauble. 

Much has been difficult for students in 2020. However, one positive outcome for high school seniors this year is that their GPAs will be viewed as the critical indicator of their academic ability, rather than a standardized test that is unfairly biased against students from low-income backgrounds and students of color. This decision will lead to more fair and equitable admissions decisions for incoming freshmen. 

Whitworth should be commended for recognizing the disparity in testing early on and leading the policy change in higher education. Hopefully, all institutions will follow and permanently abolish standardized testing.