Some West Virginia colleges, universities among those going ‘test optional’ for admissions in pandemic

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than half of all four-year, accredited colleges and universities — including several in West Virginia — are making standardized testing in the forms of SATs and ACTs optional for Fall 2021, according to the latest analysis from FairTest.

Bob Schaeffer, interim executive director of the organization which has advocated for optional testing for incoming higher education students since the 1980s, said the coronavirus pandemic has added to what had been a growing trend of taking emphasis off tests.

“Last year was the best year ever for the test-optional admissions movement. At the beginning of this year there were already 1,050 schools,” Schaeffer told MetroNews.

“The virus rapidly accelerated the number of school revising their SAT and ACT requirements.”

Harvard University was one of the latest institutions to announce students applying for admission in the Class of 2025, beginning classes next fall, could do so without standardized test scores.

“We understand that the COVID-19 pandemic has created insurmountable challenges in scheduling tests for all students, particularly those from modest economic backgrounds, and we believe this temporary change addresses these challenges,” a Harvard message said.

The latest FairTest list included about 1,240 institutions where ACT and SAT requirements had largely been dropped, at least for the foreseeable future, out of the 2,330 qualifying institutions which have granted bachelor’s degrees.

SAT and ACT test date cancellations may have been factors in the decisions.

“Colleges recognize that students who are currently high school juniors who will be seniors next year probably do not have an opportunity to take the SAT or ACT because many test sites were closed due to the pandemic,” Schaeffer said.

Now may be a good time, he argued, to make the dropping of testing requirements permanent.

The West Virginia colleges and universities included on the latest test-optional list from FairTest for 2021 were the following:

– American Military University in Charles Town;

– Bluefield State College (SAT/ACT may be required but considered only when minimum GPA and/or class rank is not met);

– Glenville State College (SAT/ACT may be required but considered only when minimum GPA and/or class rank is not met);

– Salem International University;

– University of Charleston (SAT/ACT required for some programs);

– West Liberty University (SAT/ACT may be required but considered only when minimum GPA and/or class rank is not met);

– West Virginia University at Parkersburg;

– West Virginia University Institute of Technology (SAT/ACT used only for placement and/or academic advising or SAT/ACT may be required but considered only when minimum GPA and/or class rank is not met);

– West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon.

Other schools, like Fairmont State University, were on a separate FairTest list because of testing requirement suspensions for this fall only, Fall 2020, thus far.

“Though colleges and universities announcing 2020 testing waivers merit praise for their response to the admissions testing disruptions caused by coronavirus, and some may ultimately decide to make the change permanent, they are not truly test-optional, at least not yet,” according to FairTest.

Without ACTs and SATs, Schaeffer said colleges and universities can look at prospective students as more than score.

“The SAT and ACT are unfair barriers to access. They measure how well you fill in bubbles for 3 1/2 hours on a Saturday morning,” he said.

“Colleges already have better information, more accurate predictors of undergraduate success and that’s the high school record.”

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