- The University of North Carolina System will not require SAT or ACT scores for undergraduate admissions through fall 2024, adding fuel to the test-optional movement that exploded amid the pandemic.
- UNC System Board of Governors members voted Thursday to extend the policy for its 16 college campuses. Entrance exam scores may still be required for certain academic programs, officials said.
- More than 1,800 colleges are not mandating the tests for fall 2022, according to one count, including institutions that didn't require them before the health crisis.
The spread of the coronavirus blocked access to SAT and ACT testing sites in 2020, resulting in colleges moving en masse to test-optional admissions policies. A few prominent institutions, like Florida's public universities, still mandated that undergraduate applicants submit scores.
But significant developments occurred in the test-optional campaign even after the U.S. began easing pandemic restrictions. Two of the nation's largest public higher education systems, University of California and California State University, opted in the last five months to abandon admissions testing permanently.
The loss of two major college systems in one of the country's largest testing markets walloped test providers, the ACT and the College Board, which administers the SAT. Both have bled revenue during the pandemic.
UNC's move to temporarily discontinue use of admissions tests will likely compound those problems.
The UNC system board approved the test-optional policy Thursday with minimal comment. More discussion took place Wednesday, when the board's Committee on Educational Planning, Policies, and Programs voted to send the policy to the full governing board.
Only one board member, Thom Goolsby, voted against the policy Wednesday and Thursday. Goolsby raised concerns during the committee meeting that the system may admit students who did not receive robust enough education during the pandemic and that it should not simply try to fill seats.
However, board members and officials at Wednesday's committee meeting cited a desire for UNC universities to remain competitive with their peer institutions that have remained test-optional.
This differed from the Cal State governing body's reasoning to end admissions testing last month. Board members there focused on potential benefits for underrepresented students gaining admission.
Entrance exam opponents say the tests are racist barometers that serve wealthy students who can afford exhaustive tutoring. The tests box out vulnerable applicants, they say.
Testing providers, however, have rejected the racism claim and say the exams bolster low-income and other underrepresented students by connecting them with scholarships and enabling them to showcase their academic potential.
An emailed statement from ACT said enrollment managers continue to recognize the exam plays an important role in the admissions process, even as test-optional becomes the norm.
"ACT data, alongside multiple other measures of readiness, improves admissions decision-making, informs course placement decisions, and ensures that academic supports are available to help all students succeed and complete college," the statement reads.
The College Board did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
A UNC spokesperson did not respond to questions about how the system will publicize the change in its admissions policy.
Not all institutions have opted to remain test-optional. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology resurrected its requirement for the 2023-24 admissions cycle, pointing to internal research showing the tests help predict students' academic performance, especially in mathematics.
And Georgia's public system is mandating test scores for its three most academically competitive institutions: the University of Georgia, Georgia College & State University, and Georgia Tech.