For Immediate Release
Media Contact:
William C. Hiss, Principal Investigator  
Cell: 207-576-4497
Phone: 207-784-7726
whiss@bates.edu

David Hawkins, NACAC Public Policy and Research 
Phone: 703-299-6809
dhawkins@nacacnet.org

 Report Finds Virtually No Difference in Graduation Rates for Students Who Submit or Do Not Submit Standardized Test Scores to Colleges and Universities

 


(Arlington, VA) February 18, 2014 –  There is no significant difference in the success rates of students who submit their standardized test scores to colleges and those who don’t, according to “Defining Promise: Optional Standardized Testing Policies in American College and University Admissions,” released today by Principal Investigator William C. Hiss.  In the study of colleges with “test optional admission policies,” there were no significant differences in either cumulative GPA or graduation rates between submitters and non-submitters.
 
 
The report was posted today on the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) web site.
 
 
“With almost 123,000 students at 33 widely differing institutions, the differences between submitters and non-submitters are five one-hundredths of a GPA point, and six-tenths of one percent in graduation rates.  By any standard, these are trivial differences,” the report said.
 
 
The report also found that non-submitters are more likely to be first-generation-to-college enrollees, minority students, women, Pell Grant recipients, and students with Learning Differences (LD).  But across institutional types, white students also use optional testing policies at rates within low single digits of the averages, so the policies have broad appeal across ethnic groups.
 
 
“For economic growth and social stability, America will need to find successful paths to higher education for hundreds of thousands of additional first-generation-to-college, minority, immigrant, rural and LD students,” the report said.  “This study provides the research support for optional testing as at least one route by which that can happen,” it concluded.
 
 
The report, a comprehensive effort to assess student outcomes in test-optional admission settings, is a project in keeping with the recommendations of NACAC's Commission on the Use of Standardized Admission Tests in Undergraduate Admission.
 

Editor’s Note: Fact Sheet by Principal Investigator Bill Hiss 
 
“DEFINING PROMISE:  OPTIONAL STANDARDIZED TESTING POLICIES IN AMERICAN COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY ADMISSIONS”

William C. Hiss, Principal Investigator     
Valerie W. Franks, Co-Author and Lead Researcher
For over thirty years, but increasingly in the last decade, hundreds of institutions have made standardized testing optional.   This three-year national study is the first major published research to evaluate optional testing policies in depth and across institutional types.  A fundamental question is:  “Are college admissions decisions reliable for students who are admitted without SAT or ACT scores?” 

The thirty-three colleges and universities in this study include twenty private colleges and universities, six public universities, five minority-serving institutions, and two arts institutions--a total of approximately 123,000 student records at institutions with enrollments from 50,000 students to 350, located in twenty-two US states and territories. 
The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) “Report on the Commission on the Standardized Tests in Undergraduate Admissions” urged colleges and universities to “take back the conversation” about testing. This study is a contribution to that discussion.

Does standardized testing produce valuable predictive results, or does it artificially truncate the pools of applicants who would succeed if they could be encouraged to apply?  At least based on this study, it is far more the latter.  In a wide variety of settings, non-submitters are out-performing their standardized testing.  Others may raise the more complex issues of test bias, but this study asks a much simpler and more direct question: if students have an option to have their admissions decisions made without test scores, how well do these students succeed, as measured by cumulative GPAs and graduation rates?

The major findings of the study:

• With approximately 30% of the students at these institutions admitted as non-submitters, there are no significant differences in either Cumulative GPA or graduation rates between submitters and non-submitters.   With almost 123,000 students at 33 widely differing institutions, the differences between submitters and non-submitters are five one-hundredths of a GPA point, and six-tenths of one percent in graduation rates.  By any standard, these are trivial differences.

• College and university Cumulative GPAs closely track high school GPAs, despite wide variations in testing.  Students with strong HSGPAs generally perform well in college, despite modest or low testing.  In contrast, students with weak HSGPAs earn lower college Cum GPAs and graduate at lower rates, even with markedly stronger testing.  A clear message: hard work and good grades in high school matter, and they matter a lot.

• Non-submitters are more likely to be first-generation-to-college enrollees, all categories of minority students, women, Pell Grant recipients, and students with Learning Differences (LD).  But across institutional types, white students also use optional testing policies at rates within low single digits of the averages, so the policies have broad appeal across ethnic groups.

• Non-submitters support successful enrollment planning in a broad range of ways.

• Non-submitters display a distinct two-tail or bimodal curve of family financial capacity, with both low-income and high-income families in larger numbers. 

• Non-submitters may commonly be missed in consideration for no-need merit financial awards, despite better Cum GPAs and markedly higher graduation rates than the submitters who receive merit awards.  Institutions may want to examine their criteria for no-need merit awards, especially the use of standardized testing to qualify students.
For economic growth and social stability, America will need to find successful paths to higher education for hundreds of thousands of additional first-generation-to-college, minority, immigrant, rural and LD students.

This study provides the research support for optional testing as at least one route by which that can happen.

About NACAC: NACAC is an Arlington, VA-based education association of more than 13,000 secondary school counselors, independent counselors, college admission and financial aid officers, enrollment managers, and organizations that work with students as they make the transition from high school to postsecondary education. The association, founded in 1937, is committed to maintaining high standards that foster ethical and social responsibility among those involved in the transition process, as outlined in the NACAC Statement of Principles of Good Practice. More information about NACAC is available at www.nacacnet.org.

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