I am not on the “standardized tests are worthless” bandwagon, but you’ll get no argument from me if you claim they are a big part of the distortion of the higher education admissions market. This is probably more so in professional schools but bachelors programs are affected too. At least in part because of US News ratings, very few institutions are willing to abandon test scores. But now Hampshire College, one of a small number of institutions that can be counted on for ongoing innovation in undergraduate education, has chucked them out the window. It will be interesting to see whether any of their principled peers follow suit.
Now if we could only get a few colleges to become extra-curricular-activity-blind, kids might be saved from having the because-it-looks-good-on-my-application motivation burned into their souls.
Inside Higher Ed
More than 800 four-year colleges and universities do not require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores. But of these “test-optional” colleges, the competitive ones will look at scores that are submitted. And most selective, test-optional colleges report that a majority of applicants (typically a large majority) submit scores.
On Wednesday, Hampshire College announced
that it would become the only such college that will be “test-blind,” meaning that it will not look at SAT or ACT scores even if applicants submit them.
New York Times
U.S. | NATIONAL BRIEFING | EDUCATION
College to No Longer Consider Test Scores in Its Decisions
Hampshire College, in Amherst, Mass., said on Wednesday that it would no longer consider SAT or ACT scores in admissions or financial aid decisions. Meredith Twombly, the dean of admissions, said Hampshire had been “test optional” since it opened in 1970 but would become “test blind,” both for greater fairness and because Hampshire favors assessment through written work, projects and discussions, not test scores. Robert Schaeffer, public education director of FairTest, said Hampshire would be the only test-blind college: Sarah Lawrence College was test-blind for several years, but it reverted to test-optional two years ago after U.S. News and World Report stopped ranking it because of the lack of test scores.
I’ve long been an advocate of cutting tuition and getting away from the wrong-headed “luxury-price signals quality product” logic so common in lower and middle tier higher education. There are many reasons not to “just do it,” but more than a few things in favor of the idea should at least motivate serious discussion:
- honesty in pricing might better reflect institutional values;
- some prospective students never consider a school, knowing sticker price is out of their reach; the current system discriminates against such “humble realists”;
- institutions should grapple with the fact that full-pay families might not be willing to participate in the institution’s redistribution scheme if they thought (knew) about it;
- it is not clear there is any dis-interested, scientifically valid research on the implications;
- revenue models rarely take into account the cost of administering Byzantine financial aid schemes;
- some institutions are unfairly labeled “elitist” based on sticker price alienating people to whom their mission otherwise would appeal;
- tuition discounting is one of many opacity practices that undermine administrators’, board members’, and faculty members’ capacity to effectively monitor the economics of their institutions.