North Dakota public colleges drop admissions test requirements permanently

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Dive Brief:

  • The North Dakota State Board of Higher Education voted late May to end admissions requirements that undergraduate applicants provide standardized test scores.
  • The board had temporarily allowed students to forgo submitting SAT or ACT scores through summer 2023 in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Its recent vote makes the test-optional policy permanent.
  • Exam scores may still be used for course placement and determining scholarship awards.

Dive Insight:

North Dakota’s public universities join the likes of both of California’s public four-year college systems in ending entrance exam requirements for good. 

Many colleges flipped to test-optional admissions when the coronavirus first began to spread in 2020, in recognition that students wouldn’t be able to sit for the assessments amid pandemic restrictions. But institutions have since extended test-optional policies. Some, like the California public systems, made the move permanent, while others, such as the University of North Carolina System, extended waivers for a few more years.

More than 1,830 colleges are not requiring SAT or ACT scores for fall 2022, according to FairTest, an organization advocating for limited use of standardized assessments. This count encompasses colleges that did not ask for test scores prior to the pandemic.

Few colleges that tried out test-optional rules have reverted back to requiring SAT or ACT scores, though the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in March announced it would return to its previous policies after waiving admissions testing. MIT said at the time standardized test scores give insight into how students perform academically, particularly in mathematics.

Opponents of the SAT and ACT argue, however, that scores are heavily influenced by the extensive tutoring that wealthy students can afford, which would mean testing limits college access for historically underrepresented applicants. 

The University of California and California State systems both cited a desire to knock down admissions barriers for vulnerable students when they ended their admissions requirements.

North Dakota officials, however, focused on wanting to remain competitive with other institutions removing testing mandates. 

Andrew Armacost, president of the University of North Dakota, said that the state’s public colleges would be at a “huge admissions disadvantage” if they didn’t offer test-optional admissions like neighboring states, the Grand Forks Herald reported

The North Carolina system pointed to similar reasoning when it extended test-optional policies in April.

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