More than eight out of every 10 colleges and universities that award bachelor’s degrees no longer require or do not consider standardized tests in admissions decisions, according to a national survey released Wednesday.
The latest tally from FairTest, an Arlington, Mass., group that has long been critical of the SAT and ACT standardized tests, comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected later this month to issue what could be a historic ruling on the use of affirmative action in deciding who gets into college.
Many experts say they anticipate the court and its 6-3 conservative majority will rule against the continued use of race in admissions decisions, overturning decades of legal precedent dating to the case of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke in 1978, a landmark ruling that allowed the use of race in admissions decisions.
FairTest said 1,783 institutions, or about 78% of the colleges and universities in the United States, have already extended test-optional policies through at least fall 2024 in advance of the pending Supreme Court decision. Critics have said the tests create a disadvantage for several groups, including first-generation and minority students.
“Admissions offices increasingly recognize that test requirements, given their negative disparate impact on Black and Latinx applicants, are race-conscious factors, which can create unfair barriers to access higher education,” said FairTest Executive Director Harry Feder. “They also know that standardized exams are, at best, weak predictors of academic success and largely unrelated to college-ready skills and knowledge.”
If the Supreme Court bars affirmative action in admissions decisions, Feder said, “We expect that very few schools will continue to require the ACT or SAT. And it is likely that many more graduate programs will eliminate requirements for exams such as the GRE, GMAT, LSAT and GMAT.”
FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer said a shift away from test usage, while not a perfect solution, is a workable one.
“Test-optional policies are a proven, race-neutral way to enhance campus diversity while maintaining academic quality,” he said in a release accompanying the survey.
In this region, the University of Pittsburgh and its branches at Greensburg, Johnstown, Bradford and Titusville are test-optional through at least fall 2025. So are Penn State University campuses. Carnegie Mellon University is test-optional through 2024, according to its website.
Others in Western Pennsylvania with optional policies include Duquesne University, according to spokesman Gabriel Welsch. So are a number of State System of Higher Education campuses, as well as many private colleges.
A decades-old trend toward less reliance on standardized tests accelerated with the pandemic, given campus closures that made it difficult to schedule gatherings where studens took the test. It further scrambled what had already become a soft student market for higher education.
In March 2020, FairTest identified 1,075 schools that had ACT- or SAT-optional policies.
In the survey released Wednesday, FairTest said 1,904 colleges and universities had optional policies for fall 2023.
In November, the Supreme Court heard arguments in cases against Harvard University, the nation’s oldest private college, and the University of North Carolina, the nation’s oldest public institution. They were filed in 2014 by Students for Fair Admissions, which asserted both schools were “engaged in unfair, polarizing, and illegal racial discrimination in their admissions policies.”
As of the fall, nine states prohibited public colleges and universities from considering race in admissions decisions: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington.