Loyola New Orleans Won't Look at SAT/ACT Scores

By going test blind instead of test optional, it's getting out of admissions testing. Update: University of New England changes, too.

May 11, 2020
 
Stock image of a standardized test form.
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Loyola University New Orleans announced Wednesday that it has gone test blind, meaning that it will not consider SAT or ACT scores in the admissions process.

That differs from test optional, in which those applicants who submit test scores have them considered. Hundreds of colleges have gone test optional, many of them in the last two months, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. But very few four-year colleges have gone test blind.

Loyola officials cited the pandemic. “We recognize COVID-19 has had a large impact on the ability of students to follow the recommended timeline for the college process,” said a statement by Nathan Ament, chief enrollment officer. “The spring and summer after a student’s junior year are typically when students prepare for and complete standardized testing. Currently, the SAT and the ACT test dates offered in the late spring and throughout the summer have been cancelled. By removing the testing requirement, we hope to reduce some of the stress that might be caused by the college application process.”

But Loyola also cited other reasons, noting that the university has always valued other criteria for admissions. "The university values the way students have challenged themselves in the classroom, their commitment to activities and the time they took to carefully write their personal statement. That tradition continues with the switch to test-blind admissions," said the university's statement.

Loyola's announcement is also noteworthy because the university has attracted students with good (but not exceptional) test scores. The most recent class profile of the university lists an SAT average of 1367 and an ACT average of 30.

UPDATE: The University of New England announced a similar policy.

The College Board and ACT declined to comment.

But Robert Schaeffer, interim executive director of FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing, and a longtime critic of standardized tests, said via email, "For more than three decades, FairTest has encouraged all colleges and universities to reduce the emphasis on ACT/SAT scores in evaluating applicants and awarding financial aid. Going test-blind is the most far-reaching policy … As the first top-tier national university to go test-blind, Loyola University of New Orleans can serve as a model for its peers. It is also significant that the school is located in the deep south, the region of the U.S. that has been most resistant to assessment reform of all sorts."

Prior to Loyola, two colleges have been test blind: Hampshire College and Northern Illinois University.

Hampshire went test blind in 2014. Northern Illinois acted this year.

Sarah Lawrence College for several years was test blind but changed to test optional in 2012.

Sarah Lawrence was frustrated that U.S. News & World Report would not give it a rank as a college without test scores. Robert Morse of U.S. News confirmed that the magazine still has that policy.

Loyola current ranks 197th in the national university category (of 400) of U.S. News.

Tania Tetlow, president of Loyola, said she wasn't worried about rankings.

"Rankings weren't really a factor in our thinking," she said. "Our goal is not to have a student body with the highest average test score, it is to have a student body prepared to succeed. Test scores risk rewarding those with the time and resources for expensive test preparation. In the current pandemic, this is more true than ever, and we felt mission-bound to recognize that reality … Our mission makes it crucial that we find talent more broadly, in those who struggle with standardized tests, and in those who can’t spend as much time drilling for the test."

Some Loyola students may still need to submit test scores for other reasons. For instance, Louisiana residents hoping to receive state-funded TOPS scholarships will still have to take and submit qualifying SAT or ACT scores. Loyola will use the score to determine TOPS eligibility, but it will not factor the test score into admissions decision.

And there are athletes. Currently, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, which governs Loyola athletics, requires a test score for eligibility for the 2021-22 academic year.

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