According to Joann Boughman, senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs for the university system, the change comes after long consideration and reflects national trends. All schools in the system had already moved to an optional testing model, many during the coronavirus pandemic when testing was less available.
“It wasn’t necessarily our choice to take an optional test, but over the past two years we’ve accepted many students into our system who didn’t have SAT or ACT scores,” Boughman said.
Harvard won’t require SAT or ACT until 2026 as test’s optional push expands
She added that other factors such as an applicant’s grade point average are reasonably good, if not better, at predicting college success.
System spokesman Mike Lurie said the measure was reduced from 11 to 2 with two absences; Andy Smarick and Louis Pope voted against.
During the meeting, University of Maryland College Park President Darryll J. Pines said standardized tests have a long history of disproportionate accessibility to minority communities.
“People of color tend to be biased against them by these tests and they don’t get into schools,” Pines said Friday.
Several schools in the Baltimore area, including University of Maryland Baltimore County, Towson University, University of Baltimore, and U-Md. have been optional for several years.
Freeman A. Hrabowski III, longtime UMBC president, said Friday he also supports the optional testing model, but stressed the importance of standardized testing overall.
“Especially for students of color, we need to find ways … to help them get the skills they need to be successful on standardized tests, because when you think of medical school or law school or CPA or the nurse exam or the teacher exam, all of these tests are standardized,” Hrabowski said at the meeting.
UMBC became an optional test early in the pandemic. The first class that had the option was freshmen starting in 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 so thrilled with what it means for us in terms of serving students in Maryland and beyond.”
The University of Baltimore moved to an optional testing model in 2019, so the new vote won’t affect it much, spokesperson Chris Hart said. “The system is just catching up,” he said.
Coppin State University said in an emailed statement that standardized testing is only a small part of a student’s overall admissions program.
“We understand that historically, standardized test scores have been a barrier for many students, and these tests show no significant impact on a student’s overall success in college,” the statement said. “The research is clear: the rigor of a student’s coursework, GPA, and extracurricular commitments most accurately reflect a student’s college readiness and ability to succeed.”
Salisbury University has been optional since 2006. At the board meeting, university president Charles Wight told the regents that before the pandemic, 30% of applicants to the university did not had not submitted their test results. This number rose to 80% during the pandemic.
Regent Smarick said the policy change could negatively impact the admissions process.
“One of the advantages of a test like [the] SAT [and the] ACT is that it can help identify false negatives, students who by other measures are unlikely to be ready,” Smarick said. “But these students – because a lot of other things were lined up against them – didn’t have such a great GPA, didn’t get to do a 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 USM’s 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 she welcomed the change.
“We are thrilled that students continue to have the opportunity to do their best and submit their grades.” Rodriguez said in the email.
Nicholas Lemann, a Columbia University professor and author of “The Big Test,” said USM’s decision aligns with national trends.
Elsewhere in the country, the University of California and California State University systems are among the colleges that have dropped SAT and ACT requirements for undergraduate admissions. Harvard University said it won’t require the scores until 2026.
Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said this spring it would reinstate its testing requirement after suspending it during the pandemic.
Lemann said scrapping standardized tests wouldn’t have a big impact on college admissions. He also thinks there are systematic downsides to the standardized testing system.
“There is a real conflict between admissions testing and diversity,” he said. “There are racial and ethnic and, to some extent, gender gaps in testing. This has been a constant finding since the very beginning of testing 100 years ago. And so when you’re an institution that uses these tests and has diversity as its goal, they’re not entirely consistent with each other.
April Bethea of The Washington Post contributed to this report.