According to Joann Boughman, senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs for the university system, the change comes after heavy consideration and mirrors national trends. All the schools within the system had already shifted to a test-optional model, many 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.
Harvard won’t require SAT or ACT through 2026 as test-optional push grows
She added that other factors such as an applicant’s grade-point average are reasonably good, if not better, at predicting success in college.
System spokesman Mike Lurie said the measure passed 11 to 2 with two absences; Andy Smarick and Louis Pope voted against it.
During the meeting, University of Maryland College Park President Darryll J. Pines said standardized testing has a long history of being disproportionate in accessibility to 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 schools in the Baltimore area, including the University of Maryland Baltimore County, Towson University, University of Baltimore and U-Md. have been test-optional for several years.
Freeman A. Hrabowski III, the longtime president of UMBC, said Friday that he also 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 during the meeting.
UMBC went test-optional during the onset of the pandemic. The first class that had the option were freshmen starting during fall 2021, said Yvette Mozie-Ross, the university’s 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.”
The University of Baltimore shifted to a test-optional model in 2019, so the new vote won’t affect it much, said spokesman Chris Hart. “The system is just catching up,” he said.
Coppin State University said in an emailed statement that standardized testing accounts only for 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 reads. “The research is clear: the rigor of a student’s coursework, their GPA, and extracurricular engagements most accurately reflect a student’s college readiness and ability to succeed.”
Salisbury University has been test-optional since 2006. During the board of regent’s meeting, university president Charles Wight told regents that before the pandemic, 30 percent of the university’s applicants didn’t submit their test scores. That number increased to 80 percent during the pandemic.
Regent Smarick said the policy change could negatively impact the admissions process.
“One of the benefits of a test like [the] SAT [and the] 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 of college readiness assessments for the College Board — the company that provides the SAT — said in an emailed statement that they welcome 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.
Elsewhere across the country, the University of California and California State University systems are among colleges that have dropped SAT and ACT requirements for undergraduate admissions. Harvard University has said it won’t require the scores through 2026.
Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said this spring that it would reinstate its test requirement after suspending it during the pandemic.
Lemann said the removal of standardized testing wouldn’t have a big impact on college admissions. He also 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.”
April Bethea of The Washington Post contributed to this report.