Sunday, September 28, 2008

Standardized tests for college admissions

A friend and colleague sent me this article about college admissions: Report Says Test Scores Should Be Less Important in College Admissions
The article highlights a report commissioned by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) that argues college admissions should rely less on a student's standardized test scores and more on a range of other standards including "exams that test students on their knowledge of high school curriculum subjects, such as the SAT subject tests, Advanced Placement exams, and the International Baccalaureate exams." The report has been commended by The National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest), an organization that "works to end the misuses and flaws of standardized testing and to ensure that evaluation of students, teachers and schools is fair, open, valid and educationally beneficial." FairTest supports test-optional admissions criteria and the reform of No Child Left Behind.
One of the greatest factors in the controversy surrounding college admissions is socioeconomics. With the availability of expensive test-prep programs such as The Princeton Review, affluent students are scoring better than those students who cannot afford such programs. For example, Princeton Review's LiveOnline ACT Preparation Course costs over $900 - not an affordable price tag for most students.
Add the rise in tuition costs, and it is no wonder that so many students are struggling to go to college. 
Interestingly enough, Harvard University, the creme de la creme of colleges in the nation, is working hard to break down these barriers. Just this year Harvard began the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative, a campaign to make a Harvard education more affordable. The initiative requires families with incomes between $120,000 and $180,000 to pay 10 percent of their income and the percentages decrease from there until reaching free tuition at $60,000. There is much debate about this initiative including Harvard's ENORMOUS endowment allowing the university to offer this program.
Harvard is also invested in the debate surrounding admissions criteria as the NACAC report commission included the Dean of Harvard Admissions. While Harvard has not indicated a change to its admissions process, the institution is invested in this concerning issue.
I don't know what the answer is to allowing equal opportunities to all young people regarding postsecondary education, but I support any effort to make college an option for all students regardless of their ability to afford it.

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