UNC System universities will not require SAT and ACT test scores on students’ applications for the spring, summer and fall 2021 sessions.
The UNC System Board of Governors voted Thursday to go test optional for the next admissions cycle because COVID-19 limited test-taking options for students.
SAT and ACT test days were canceled and postponed during the coronavirus pandemic. And with some North Carolina K-12 school systems moving online it will be more difficult for students to access testing sites between now and early November.
This is a one-year emergency waiver to remove the standardized test requirement directly related to the impacts of COVID-19 and does not change the existing policy.
At the meeting, board secretary Pearl Burris-Floyd said students are particularly sensitive to having to perform during this unprecedented time and under the changes that have come from COVID-19.
“If we continue to try to do the same things right now, we’re ignoring the fact that we’re operating under a new normal that creates additional anxiety,” Burris-Floyd said.
Burris-Floyd said she’s in favor of suspending standardized testing for this particular period because it “helps level the playing field.”
‘An axe and not a scalpel’
The point of the waiver is that universities will not penalize students who do not submit test scores, Steve Farmer, UNC-Chapel Hill’s vice provost for enrollment and undergraduate admissions, said at a board committee meeting Wednesday.
Farmer said standardized testing “is an axe and not a scalpel” in terms of evaluating students’ applications and that a test score only represents a student in a particular moment.
“We still have plenty of information that would help us understand if a student is prepared and what their gifts are and what they’re prepared to offer us and their classmates,” Farmer said.
Temple Sloan, chair of the board’s committee on Educational Planning, Policies and Programs, said members heard from UNC-CH and N.C. State University enrollment managers about the negative impact that this requirement is having on their “market competitiveness and on unconstructive student stress.”
Sloan noted that hundreds of other colleges and universities nationwide have already temporarily waived the requirement for ACT/SAT scores, including Duke University, Davidson College and Elon University. All Ivy League Institutions, the California State University system, the University of Illinois system and the State University of New York system have also lifted that requirement for a limited time.
Not all board members agreed
Some board members, including Steve Long and Thom Goolsby, opposed the waiver because many students have already taken the test and want to submit their scores to enhance their application.
This waiver does not prevent a student from submitting test scores and admissions officers can consider the scores as part of the student’s application. However, the waiver cites guidance from the College Board that colleges “equally consider students for admission who are unable to take the test due to COVID-19.”
This is the second time the UNC System has changed admissions requirements because of COVID-19.
In March, the system adopted a new policy that each university can choose to admit students with a minimum 2.5 weighted high school GPA or a combined SAT score of 1010 or an ACT score of 19.
The change is based on UNC System research that GPA is a better indicator of student success and was implemented early because of the pandemic, The News & Observer previously reported.