Students wanting to attend a Maryland State University will no longer have to submit their SAT scores, a move officials hope will encourage more applicants from marginalized groups.
The Board of Regents voted 11 to 2 to remove standardized test score requirements from the Maryland University System’s admissions policy in mid-June.
This means that the 12 state-controlled universities have the option to drop standardized test requirements. The amendment was proposed by Joann Boughman, Senior Vice Chancellor for Academics and Student Affairs for the University System of Maryland.
There were about 14,000 freshmen in the University of Maryland system last fall.
Universities nationwide are adopting voluntary testing admissions rules, as the California State University System did in March. The coronavirus pandemic has served as a driver for such policies.
In 2020, Maryland State Universities suspended the test score requirement due to the COVID-19 pandemic after SAT testing sessions were canceled to ensure public health.
“Our admissions offices found that because they used complex sets of variables in their admissions process, the SAT/ACT standardized test scores didn’t weigh in the same way as before,” Boughman said. .
For example, the University of Maryland, College Park uses 25 measures in addition to test scores when considering admission, such as grades, letters of recommendation, and personal statements.
According to Brookings Institute, a non-profit think tank. Instead of a clean slate to rank students’ chances of success, lower test scores can perpetuate implicit biases and contribute to systemic racism.
“It has been known for some time that these standardized tests have built-in biases, these biases tend to create barriers for first-generation, low-income, English-as-a-second-language students, or those who might not have may not have had some of the advanced placement scores from their high schools. And we believe these students have a lot of potential,” Boughman said.
Student bodies should reflect the population and demographics of the state, she said.
There were 126,704 undergraduates in the state university system in 2021, of whom about 40% were white and about 38% were underrepresented minorities, according to the college system. About 49% of Maryland residents are white and not Hispanic or Latino, while 31% identify as black, according to the 2020 U.S. Census.
Two board members opposed the measure, Andy Smarick and Louis Pope voted against the proposal.
During the meeting, Smarick raised concerns about potential biases in other admissions metrics such as internships, GPA, and letters of recommendation.
“One of the benefits of a test like the SAT or ACT is that it can help identify false negatives, students who by other measures are unlikely to be ready,” he said. declared.
Smarick added that for some students, their test scores will strengthen their candidacy, especially students who may not have the best grades but scored high on the exam.
“Any student who wishes to take one of the standardized tests can do so,” said Boughman, the university’s administrator. “And we actually encourage students to do that, so if their score is good, we encourage them to include it, even if they’re applying to a campus that has an optional test.”
Freeman Hrabowski III, the outgoing president of the University of Maryland in Baltimore County, spoke in favor of standardized testing but said students should still be prepared with the same knowledge base.
“Academically and for the future of our students, we need to send the message, ‘we need to get these skills,’ partly reading skills,” he said.
Yvette Mozie-Ross, vice provost for enrollment management and planning at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, agrees.
“As we prepare our students to enter graduate and professional programs that still rely on standardized testing,” Mozie-Ross said. “It will be imperative that we make sure we do what we can to properly prepare them for this.”
Mozie-Ross added that the University of Maryland in Baltimore County offers test prep classes for a range of professional entrance exams such as the GMAT, LSAT and GRE to help students to acquire standardized test-taking skills.
Salisbury University in Wicomico County hasn’t required standardized test scores since 2006. School administrators have said that over the past decade, GPA has been a better predictor of achievement at University.
Salisbury University director of admissions, Beth Skoglund, said the university’s decision to be test-optional was based on taking a holistic approach to admissions to look at the whole of student.
“There are a lot of reasons why students don’t do well on tests, so Salisbury wanted to give them the opportunity to always come in and do well,” Skoglund said.
She added: “At Salisbury we did a lot of research the first two years we were electives to make sure these students were successful and they were.”
Since the GPA requirement was scrapped in 2020, Skoglund said she’s seen a shift in the demographics of the student body. This fall, Salisbury University will have its second largest and most diverse incoming class.
Universities in Maryland will remain optional through 2026. The University System of Maryland plans to collect data to measure student success and reevaluate their decision.