‘U.S. News’ Will Rank Test-Blind Colleges

In the past, such institutions were unranked. The magazine won't say how it will rank them.

June 22, 2020

U.S. News & World report announced Wednesday that it will start to rank test-blind colleges and universities.

Test-blind colleges do not accept the SAT or ACT in the admissions process, even if scores are submitted. Far more colleges are test optional, which means they consider the test scores of students who submit them. But in the last year, especially after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, many more colleges have gone test optional or test blind. That's because the SAT and ACT have had to be canceled and some students are reporting that it is difficult to register for the tests that will be offered in the fall.

Indeed, U.S. News took a stance in favor of test-optional policies for the SAT and ACT.

"Although the data schools reported for the upcoming 2021 Best Colleges rankings is from fall 2019 admissions and not affected by COVID-19, schools themselves definitely are and will be impacted by the spread of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus," the magazine said. "U.S. News believes now is the right time to end the use of standardized tests in admissions decisions as a requirement for inclusion in the rankings."

The magazine declined to discuss how it would rank colleges that go test blind, until the fall (when the new rankings will be released).

But because SAT/ACT scores used for rankings in a year are the prior year's scores, the magazine could still have them for most colleges that have gone test blind -- for at least one year.

The test scores count for 7.75 percent of the total ranking score for national universities.

Until this year, it was very rare for colleges to be test blind.

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 ranking as a college without test scores.

Hampshire College went test blind in 2014. Northern Illinois University acted this year, before the pandemic hit.

Then Loyola University New Orleans and the University of New England went test blind. Then the University of California system voted to go test blind (after going test optional for two years). Caltech announced it was going test blind for two years.

With all of these colleges going test blind, U.S. News had a serious problem: if it didn't rank them, its readers would see less value in the rankings.

Neither the College Board nor ACT responded to a question about the change.

Fumio Sugihara, dean of admissions and financial aid at Hampshire, said, "Since 2014 Hampshire has not accepted SAT/ACT test scores in admissions for two main reasons: standardized tests do not predict success at Hampshire, where each student designs and presents their original research and projects, and SATs/ACTs are strongly biased against low-income students and students of color at a time when diversity is central to our mission. Hampshire chose our mission and values over rankings. We are encouraged to see other colleges and publishing companies now questioning the role of standardized testing in admissions."

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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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