A key college entrance exam has been scrapped until at least August because of the coronavirus pandemic, adding more pressure to the companies that administer the admissions tests at a time when dozens of colleges are making it optional.
The SATs scheduled for June have been cancelled, the College Board said in a statement Wednesday. The organization said it will provide a digital SAT for home use if schools don’t reopen in the fall — an event it called unlikely.
“We know students and educators are worried about how the coronavirus may disrupt the college admissions process, and we want to do all we can to help alleviate that anxiety during this very demanding time,” College Board Chief Executive Officer David Coleman said in the statement. About 20 states have already closed schools for the rest of the academic year, he said later on a call with reporters.
The coronavirus has upended higher education, clearing college students from campuses and forcing them and their high school counterparts to take online classes at home. Schools have adjusted, offering pass/fail options instead of grades and waiving graduation requirements such as gym credits. A growing number of colleges — including Amherst, Williams, Middlebury, Pomona, the University of California, Haverford and Tufts — have made the SAT and ACT optional for admission, at least temporarily.
“The College Board has already lost a ton of revenue by canceling spring tests,” said Bob Schaeffer, interim executive director of FairTest, a nonprofit that has led the “test optional” movement for 30 years. “It faces further drop-offs in the number of test-takers because so many colleges will not be requiring tests this fall or next and beyond.”
FairTest found that over the last few months more than 40 schools have made the tests optional for admission, according to Schaeffer.
Meanwhile, rival ACT said Wednesday that it’s still planning to administer June and July tests and will be offering a remote proctoring option by the end of the year, allowing students to take the exam online from their home, spokesman Ed Colby said.
The College Board, a New York-based nonprofit, said once it’s safe from a public health standpoint, it will offer tests every month beginning in August through the end of the calendar year.
More than 2.2 million students from the class of 2019 took the SAT, according to the College Board. It had net assets of $1.1 billion for the year ended December 2018, its most recent filing showed. The company took in $406 million in revenue from the SAT and related tests, including a preliminary exam, known as the PSAT, in that period, while expenses totaled $389 million.
They are a rite of passage as well as anxiety-inducing letters for millions of students: the SAT and ACT.
But with many high schools closed or teaching remotely for the rest of the academic year, a growing number of colleges and universities are waiving standardized test requirements amid the coronavirus pandemic.
So far, Harvard, Yale and the other high-profile universities of the Ivy League still require them, as do Stanford and highly selective colleges on the West Coast. But many of the schools that compete with those big names are moving ahead to make the tests optional.
More than two dozen — from highly selective liberal arts colleges like Williams and Amherst, both in Massachusetts, to California’s public universities — announced this spring that the tests would be optional for applicants seeking to enroll in 2021. Some even went further than that.
The easing of test requirements comes as education reform groups have criticized the SAT and ACT, which they contend give wealthier students an advantage because their families can afford expensive prep exams and coaches. The nonprofit National Center for Fair and Open Testing keeps a growing list of hundreds of higher education institutions already moving away from requiring the tests.
Williams College, which US News & World Report ranked as the top national liberal arts college in its annual guide this year, took the step last week and said it was waiving the requirement for both first-year and transfer applicants.
“This is an unprecedented moment for students and colleges alike and it calls for a change to the usual way of doing things,” Liz Creighton, the dean of admission and financial aid at Williams, said in a statement on April 6.
The same day that Williams made the exams optional, so did its rival, Amherst.
“If future test dates are not available in students’ local areas or if students are worried about how to test in a socially distant manner, we do not want them to feel pressure to put themselves in situations that are not in their best interest,” Matt McGann, the dean of admission and financial aid at Amherst, said in a statement. “And we wanted to provide clarity and ease anxiety as soon as we could.”
The College Board, which administers the SAT, and the ACT did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday night.
In the Boston area, Tufts, Northeastern and Boston University have all adopted an optional-testing policy.
Both Vassar and Pomona Colleges have waived standardized tests in their admission requirement. Davidson College in North Carolina, Haverford College in Pennsylvania and Rhodes College in Tennessee will move to optional testing for three years as part of a pilot program and then re-evaluate their testing requirements.
The University of California system announced on March 31 that it was suspending the standardized test requirement for first-year applicants in the fall 2021 admission cycle.
In Washington state, where the outbreak struck early, the University of Washington took similar steps. The University of Oregon, Oregon State University and Scripps College in California all recently announced that they would no longer require standardized tests.
Texas Christian University and Trinity University in San Antonio made testing optional for next year’s applicants, with Trinity adopting the policy for a three-year period.
Both Tulane University in New Orleans and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland have waived the testing requirement for next year’s applicants.