TEXAS — The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a laundry list of societal changes, introducing a “new normal.” With the rise of remote learning during the zenith of virus spread in 2020, many Texas universities have altered admissions requirements, making the submission of ACT and SAT scores optional to students. After making some long-term observations of undergraduate admissions data, public colleges in Texas might be saying goodbye to the requirement completely.
Some universities already offered a test-optional policy because of the state law that allows automatic admission to students in the top 10% of their high school class.
However, lots of students faced some unavoidable struggles, with the arrival of COVID-19 causing a big pause in standardized testing locations. And even though testing sites are now back open, the presentation of those scores is still optional for some.
According to the University of Texas at Austin’s admission policy, high school students expected to enroll in the fall of 2023 as undergrads will not be required to attach their standardized test scores along with their application. “This change was initially made in Fall 2021 in order to allow the university to better serve potential students by ensuring that testing limitations related to COVID-19 do not affect a student’s ability to apply,” the university wrote.
Although COVID infection rates have decreased substantially, universities have noticed some positive results in ridding students of the worry that standardized tests often bring about.
In a Fort Worth Star-Telegram article, Chris Reed, executive director of admissions at Texas A&M University in College Station, said, “It was an opportunity that a lot of schools are grateful they’ve been able to take. The pandemic created an opportunity when it was the right thing to do.… Now we have a living, breathing dataset to evaluate some of those assumptions.”
Texas A&M, like UT Austin, pushed its policy to 2023, but in the spring. Texas State University has dismissed the requirement of SAT and ACT scores for all 2022 terms. Texas Tech University has applied a policy extension until 2025.
Data from some universities showed that with the test-optional policy, more minorities were enrolled.
The University of Texas at Arlington cited an increase in Black students’ admission after its decision to do away with ACT and SAT scores, according to the Star-Telegram. Black freshmen students’ enrollment shot up by 34%, from 519 to 694, in fall 2021. The Fort Worth paper named Texas State as another university that saw a 6% spike in Black students.
Scholars and experts from all over have reported racial biases in standardized testing for years, data frequently exposing the educational disadvantages of children based on their collective socioeconomic background. Although a definitive conclusion can’t be made in that the removal of standardized testing will increase the college enrollment of minorities, the results of UT at Arlington and Texas State remain.
Ironically, HBCUs Texas Southern University in Houston and Prairie View A&M University restored the admissions policy to require standardized test scores. TSU in Houston only requires test scores from applicants with a 2.5 GPA or lower. As for Prairie View, all freshmen applicants are to submit their test scores.
“The test-optional trend has opened up a lot more opportunities for students who are low-income, who don’t come from high schools that emphasize testing like more resourced counterparts,” said Sara Urquidez with Academic Success Program Dallas, in a statement to the Star-Telegram. “But I don’t think it’s changed the fundamental question of college affordability for low-income students.”
Despite many Texas universities claiming to still use submitted test scores as a means for merit-based scholarships, and being open to those who do not, Urquidez told the Star-Telegram those scholarships seem to be offered in moderation to those without test scores. So, it poses the question, “How can universities really move toward test-optional, if limitations still exist for students who choose not to submit their scores?”
Many educators have detested the need for standardized testing, but most are still afraid that others will not hop on board simply because they're stuck in their ways and it's less taxing to go about changing an admissions policy that's been around for a long time.