On Monday, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, a critic of standardized testing, released data showing that half the colleges on U.S. News & World Report’s top 100 liberal arts colleges list are test optional.
Also this week, ACT released a report questioning the rationale behind colleges going test optional. The report says that these policies are based on false assumptions and that test scores add to the information admissions officers need.
Brown University announced Monday that it will consider undocumented applicants -- those without the legal right to remain in the U.S. -- as domestic students. In the past they have been evaluated for admissions as international students. The shift is significant because Brown reviews all domestic applicants (but not international applicants) through a system that is need blind and in which the university pledges to meet 100 percent of demonstrated financial need. That's crucial for undocumented students, who generally have financial need but are not eligible for federal aid.
Bowdoin College announced Tuesday that it will no longer require application fees from those who are in the first generation of their family to go to college, or who are applying for financial aid. The standard application fee at Bowdoin is $65. While most colleges have provisions for applicants to seek waivers, many experts say that low-income applicants may be discouraged by having to apply for a waiver.
A new report provides guidance for colleges on how to comply with the recent Supreme Court decision affirming the right of colleges to consider race and ethnicity in admissions but also affirming certain limits on the practice. The guide is from the College Board and Education Counsel, strong supporters of affirmative action.
Key points in the guidance:
Goals for student body diversity "should be sufficiently precise, without resorting to numbers only, and based on evidence-centered academic judgment."
Colleges need "institution-specific evidence should support the necessity of using race-conscious methods for achieving these goals."
Individual reviews of applicants must reflect "flexible consideration of race through individualized evaluation and an institution’s unique mission."
Syracuse University has been criticized by some of its minority students for an increased emphasis on rankings and for scaling back involvement with the Posse Foundation, a highly regarded program to attract low-income students to colleges they might not otherwise select. New data from the university show that the percentage of minority students in the class enrolling this fall is 24 percent, down from 28 percent a year ago. The figure includes all minority groups, and those who identify with more than one racial and ethnic group. The university is pledging a series of steps to enroll more minority students. Among the steps:
Creating a team of four experienced recruiters focused specifically on diversity recruitment.
Charging all admissions staff members to prioritize recruiting a diverse student body.
Creating and enhancing incentive financial aid to encourage minority enrollment.
Kaplan Test Prep is announcing today that it will offer free online PSAT instruction, starting in October. Kaplan will offer eight one-hour sessions live, with recordings available for those who can't participate live. Kaplan's announcement noted that, for many students, the PSAT is "the first meaningful step on their path to college."
The move comes at a time that more testing services are offering free test prep. The College Board has been boasting about the free test prep it is offering for the SAT through the Khan Academy. (And the College Board notes that this program is open to those preparing for the PSAT as well.) In April, ACT and Kaplan Test Prep announced a collaboration to provide free online instruction, taught by teachers, for low-income students. That service will be available to all, but those who are not low income will have to pay a fee, estimated to be under $200.
Asked if the latest announcement was part of competition in the free test prep space, Lee Weiss, Kaplan Test Prep vice president of college admissions programs, said via email: "Not at all. Kaplan has been developing our live online instruction capabilities for years. We know that good live teaching makes a meaningful difference in student performance, and we’ve recognized that quality live instruction is not available at scale. As technology has evolved, we saw an opportunity to use technology and our respective expertise to create something that didn’t yet exist."
Federal Bureau of Investigation agents on Friday raided the home of a former employee of the College Board as part of an investigation of a security breach involving hundreds of SAT questions, Reuters reported. The former employee is Manuel Alfaro, who left his job as executive director of assessment design and development at the College Board last year and who has -- since then -- been stating on his LinkedIn page that there are serious problems with the new SAT. A College Board spokesman told Reuters that the accusations were “patently false.” On his Linkedin page, Alfaro confirmed the raid and blamed it on the College Board.
St. John's University, in New York, has dropped its requirement that applicants submit SAT or ACT scores -- for at least a three-year trial period. The option will not be open to students who are homeschooled, have a first language other than English or who are applying to a small group of majors.
Ursinus College is making a bid to prove to top students that it can be affordable, starting a new scholarship program guaranteeing tens of thousands of dollars for four years for freshmen who meet certain academic standards.
The 1,700-student private liberal arts college outside of Philadelphia has created a Gateway Scholarship guaranteeing $30,000 per year for four years. To be eligible, students must earn a minimum ACT composite score of 28 or a combined 1260 on the SAT's critical reading and math segments. They must also meet college preparatory-level course requirements.
The $30,000 per year is roughly half of the $61,690 total cost of attending Ursinus in 2016-17. Ursinus charges $49,370 in tuition and fees and $12,320 for room and board. But its 2015-16 discount rate was 57.4 percent, and just 3 percent of its students paid the full cost of attendance.
Students applying for the new scholarship can still apply for additional need-based aid.