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UMBC and Towson go to test optional admissions for the class entering in the fall of 2021

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Towson University will not require SAT or ACT scores from students applying for entrance in 2021.

The two universities join a growing number of institutions across the nation to drop standardized testing requirements in light of difficulties in conducting tests during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“There are going to be students who just don’t have access to tests sites right now,” said Dale Bittinger, assistant vice provost for undergraduate admissions. “This is the right thing to do in the environment we are in with the pandemic.”

Anecdotally, Bittinger said, he was hearing that students were considering flying to other states to try to sit for an exam, a situation which would have disadvantaged less wealthy students.

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Earlier this month the College Board, which administers the SAT, advised colleges to accept scores as late in the process as possible, consider not requiring the submission of scores and recognizing that students who do take the test may only have taken it once rather than twice to try to raise their scores.

More than half of all four year colleges and universities in the nation have dropped the testing requirement for applicants either permanently or for a trial period, according to a tally by Fair Test, a national group that advocates for test optional policies.

Johns Hopkins University also will be test optional for the Class of 2024, and McDaniel and Goucher colleges already were. The University of Maryland’s flagship College Park campus has not made an announcement yet.

Towson University on Wednesday announced its test optional policy and said in a statement that it will “continue exploring this method for future classes, but the COVID-19 pandemic expedited the process for students pursuing admission for next fall. "

Bittinger said UMBC will analyze first year results and decide whether to permanently keep admissions tests optional.

For this year, the university has not made a decision about whether it will rely more heavily on other aspects of the application.

“We are going to have to dig a little deeper,” he said, by scrutinizing course work more carefully and the curriculum of the courses they are offered. Performance on Advanced Placement tests may be used and how students who came from the same high school did at UMBC will also be looked at, he said.

And Bittinger is hoping that students will give more care to filling out their applications.

”I am hoping that some will be more thoughtful,” he said, while at the same time the admissions officers look at data points they haven’t considered in the past.

Critics of the SAT tests have argued in the past that disadvantaged students with less access to a high quality curriculum suffer in an admissions process when standardized tests are required.

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