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Dive Brief:

  • More than 1,900 U.S. colleges and universities are not requiring SAT or ACT scores for admissions for fall 2024, continuing the proliferation of test-optional and test-free practices. 
  • This is the latest count from FairTest, a group that advocates for limited application of entrance exams and has long tracked which institutions do not mandate them for admissions. It includes colleges that flipped to test-optional policies during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as those that historically have never asked for assessment scores.
  • FairTest said Wednesday that several dozen other institutions have not yet made public their fall 2024 admissions test requirements, “but most are expected to remain test optional.”

Dive Insight:

One of the most enduring changes that the pandemic brought to higher education was the meteoric rise of test-optional admissions

Before the health crisis, some colleges had abandoned admissions tests. But the spread of the coronavirus in 2020 shut down typical testing sites, spurring many more institutions to waive their requirements. 

Some of those policies were temporary, with institutions like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology having since returned to testing mandates. 

But other colleges have preserved test-optional admissions. Columbia University was one of the first highly prominent institutions to announce this year that it would use test-optional policies indefinitely.

Opponents of entrance exams say they perpetuate inequities in higher ed because historically marginalized applicants can’t afford the same tutoring for the tests that their wealthy counterparts receive. 

Research shows exam scores rise with income levels. However, the ACT company and College Board, which administers the SAT, argue that their products are not discriminatory. 

Criticism around testing policies has grown more intense, too, with last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling against race-conscious admissions, which pundits say will also drive down campus diversity. 

“After recent Supreme Court decisions on admissions, eliminating testing requirements is a fair, legally permissible way to encourage applications from first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented student groups, for whom standardized exams are often a poor predictor of college success,” Bob Schaeffer, FairTest’s public education director, said in a statement Wednesday.