The University System of Maryland’s board of regents has voted to pave the way for its 12 universities to remove the requirement for prospective students to provide standardized SAT or ACT scores for admission.
Although the 12 universities still have the autonomy to set their own admissions standards, Friday’s vote removes the language requiring schools to consider test scores within their admissions practices.
Joann Boughman, USM’s senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, said the change comes after heavy consideration and mirrors national trends. All the schools within the USM system had shifted to a test-optional model during the coronavirus pandemic when testing was less available.
“It was not our choice necessarily to go test-optional, but for the last two years, we have dealt with accepting many, many students across our system who did not have SAT or ACT scores,” Boughman said.
She added that other factors, such as grade point average, are reasonably good, if not better, at predicting success in college.
University system spokesman Mike Lurie said the measure passed 11-2 with two absences; Andy Smarick and Louis Pope voted against it.
During the June 17 meeting, University of Maryland, College Park President Darryll Pines said standardized testing has a long history of being problematic for minority communities.
“Persons of color tend to have biases against them by these tests, and they don’t get into schools,” Pines said Friday.
Several Baltimore-area schools, including University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Towson University, University of Baltimore and University of Maryland, have been test-optional for several years.
Freeman Hrabowski III, UMBC’s longtime president, said during the meeting that he supports the test-optional model but stressed the importance of standardized testing overall.
“Particularly for students of color, we have to find ways ... of helping them to have the skills they need to succeed on standardized tests, though, because when you think about medical school or law school or the CPA or the nursing exam or the teacher’s exam, all of these are standardized tests,” Hrabowski said.
UMBC went test-optional at the onset of the pandemic; the first class that had the option started fall 2021, said Yvette Mozie-Ross, vice provost for enrollment management and planning.
“UMBC has completely embraced this,” she said, “and I’m really excited about what it means for us in terms of serving the students in Maryland and beyond.”
University of Baltimore shifted to a test-optional model in 2019, so the vote won’t affect it much, spokesman Chris Hart said.
“The system is just catching up,” he said.
Coppin State University said in an emailed statement that standardized testing accounts for only a small portion of a student’s overall admissions package.
“We understand that historically, standardized test scores have been a barrier for many students, and such tests show no significant impact on a student’s overall success in college,” the statement said. “The research is clear: the rigor of a student’s coursework, their GPA, and extra-curricular engagements most accurately reflect a student’s college readiness and ability to succeed.”
Salisbury University has been test-optional since 2006. During the meeting, Salisbury President Charles Wight told the regents that before the pandemic, 30% of the university’s applicants didn’t submit test scores; that number increased to 80% during the pandemic.
Regent Smarick said the policy change could negatively impact the admissions process.
The Evening Sun
“One of the benefits of a test like SAT, your ACT is that it can help identify false negatives, students who the other metrics say probably aren’t ready,” Smarick said. “But these students — because a lot of other things were aligned against them — didn’t have that great of a GPA, didn’t have a chance to do a whole lot of other things. But thanks to this test, we see that this student is off the charts in reading, off the charts in math.”
In response to the USM decision, Priscilla Rodriguez, senior vice president, college readiness assessments for College Board, the company that provides the SAT, said in an emailed statement that it welcomes the shift.
“We are pleased that students will continue to have the option of putting their best foot forward and submitting scores.” Rodriguez said in the email.
Nicholas Lemann, a professor at Columbia University and author of “The Big Test,” said the USM decision matches national trends.
The University of California system, for example, recently decided to halt the use of standardized testing on the admissions process at its schools.
Lemann said the removal of standardized testing wouldn’t have a big impact on college admissions. He believes that there are systematic disadvantages within the standardized testing system.
“There’s a real conflict between admissions tests and diversity,” he said. “There are racial and ethnic and, to some extent, gender gaps on tests. This has been a consistent finding since the very beginning of testing 100 years ago. And so when you’re an institution that uses these tests and that has diversity as a goal, those are not entirely consistent with each other.”