NACAC, the Equity Research Cooperative (EqRC), and a University of Maryland-led research team will join efforts to examine equity outcomes of test-optional and test-free college admission policies. 

Arlington, VA (April 21, 2022) – The abrupt elimination of testing requirements for admission to more than 1,800 postsecondary institutions during the pandemic provides an unprecedented opportunity to examine how test-optional and test-free policies can impact the college enrollment of Black, Latinx/e, Indigenous, Asian, and low-income students.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) will convene researchers at the forefront of understanding how testing requirement changes impacted access for students traditionally underrepresented in college enrollment, especially among selective colleges. This collaboration is made possible through funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In convening this work, NACAC will:

  • Establish and coordinate the activities of an advisory group of policy experts, researchers, practitioners, and student advocates.
  • Connect researchers with NACAC’s engaged membership network of college admission counseling professionals. Members will be invited to participate in surveys, interviews, and case studies.
  • Work with a communications firm to broadly disseminate the outcomes and resources generated by the University of Maryland and Equity Research Cooperative.
  • Identify strategic partners for the hosting of a public-facing tool or platform that will share insights and findings from this work with students, parents, policymakers, and practitioners.

“As equity advocates, NACAC is keen to continue our pivotal role in advocating for student-centered admissions,” said Angel B. Pérez, chief executive officer of NACAC. “As a majority of institutions adopt test-optional policies and we face the potential of a post-standardized testing era, we want to place an emphasis on understanding the effects of new policies and practices and how they impact equity in college access. What we learn from this project will impact students and institutions for years to come.”

The research effort 

Researchers at the University of Maryland will collaborate with faculty members from Penn State University and Southern Methodist University to analyze data on enrollment patterns from about 150 four-year institutions. They will also survey admission professionals on the implementation of test-optional policies and interview college admission leaders. Analyzing data from a national sample of college applications, they will examine potential patterns of inequity in extracurricular activities and letters of recommendation to inform future admission policy and practice.

The Equity Research Cooperative (EqRC) will examine the enrollment of Black, Latinx/e, Indigenous, Asian, and low-income students as it pertains to implications of test-optional policy. To do this, EqRC will administer a representative national student survey and conduct six case studies at selective institutions and Global Majority Serving Institutions (Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges).  The case studies will explore in greater depth equity-based admission practices from a transformative worldview and gather insight from students, student affinity groups, and university stakeholders.

Activities and outcomes 

Through this collaboration, there will be new documentation of the impact of test-optional admission practices on students, families, and institutions. The research will aim to show college application, admission, and the enrollment in test-optional environments with a particular focus on Black, Latinx/e, Indigenous, Asian, and low-income students. This work will identify recruitment and admission policies that support the increased enrollment of diverse groups and provide a public clearinghouse of information related to test-optional admission.