AU to offer test-optional admission

Evan Laux, NEWS & OPINION EDITOR

To combat ongoing coronavirus obstacles, Ashland University has adopted a test-optional admittance policy for the 2021-2022 school year.

AU released a press release on Oct. 27 announcing the policy, which will eliminate the need for applicants to provide ACT, CLT or SAT standardized test scores in order to be considered for acceptance.

This change is intended for students coming directly from high school or who have been out of high school fewer than three years and will only be offered for the upcoming school year.

“It had been in the works for a couple of months before my arrival,” Vice President for Enrollment Management and Marketing, Keith Ramsdell said. “I think it’s important to recognize that both our faculty and staff took a good amount of time to work on a policy that they thought would work best for our university.”

Issues with standardized testing began rising in the spring and summer when K-12 schools across the country were shut down due to COVID-19 concerns. These schools were the most common testing sites for standardized tests like the ACT and SAT, which are widely used by colleges and universities to gauge college success and admittance.

The College Board, the SAT’s provider, tried to administer an at-home online version of its test, but suspended it in June after it prompted a class-action lawsuit by students who suffered technical difficulties while taking the test.

Since then, problems have persisted into the fall.

The College Board announced on Oct. 27 that some 96,000 students of the 312,000 who had registered to take the SAT on Oct. 31 would be unable to test as thirty percent of testing sites are closed.

Although COVID-19 was the catalyst for many schools to adopt test-optional policies, Ramsdell says that the debate on the ability of standardized tests to gauge college readiness has been ongoing.

“I’ve spent the last 15 years working on the graduate side of higher education and there’s been a movement for many years to remove the GRE (Graduate Record Examinations), and now we’re starting to see even more of that at the undergraduate level,” Ramsdell said. “The issue there is that those test scores are not necessarily always a good predictor of college success. The best predictors are the curriculum high schoolers took, the GPAs they received in those classes, and the caliber of the highschool they came from.”

Like AU, most schools have adopted the policies for a single academic year. Ramsdell said that the university will be looking at ongoing data and will determine later whether or not to continue the policy to any degree.

FairTest, a non-profit organization aimed at “ending the misuses and flaws of standardized testing,” has made multiple public statements about test-optional policies over the course of the ongoing situation.

Bob Scaeffer, interim executive director of FairTest, believes that this movement could persuade many universities to adopt such policies permanently.

“This could well be the tipping point,” Schaeffer told CNN. “Removal of the test was already rapidly increasing… From our experience, we’ve seen that when schools do these pilot programs, they never go back.”

According to Schaeffer, it’s a “win-win,” as schools get more applicants and a more diverse pool of applicants, and the opportunity for students to be evaluated by more than a score is appealing.

According to Ramsdell, the admissions office had students contact them and argue they would not apply to AU until they knew that a test-optional policy would be adopted since many other schools already had.

“Quite honestly it’s just a mess right now,” Ramsdell said. “We’ve got to provide opportunities for these students to get into college and to attend next year. What we want is to enroll students at Ashland and not have them set up for failure. We want our students to succeed and thrive.”