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Western Supports ‘Test Optional’ Admission

test optional

Western Colorado University has announced support for proposed legislation that would make college entrance exams, such as the SAT and ACT, optional under admission requirements for state institutions. Currently, Western is operating under a one-year waiver of entrance exam requirements that was passed by the legislature and signed into law last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reassessing University Admissions Standards

“These unprecedented times amid a pandemic have shed light on university admissions standards, and potential barriers to some populations in pursuing post-secondary degrees,” said President Greg Salsbury, Ph.D., in an email to the Western campus. “Western Colorado University is in support of proposed legislation that would make college entrance exams optional in the admissions process.”

Colorado lawmakers are considering a bill (HB21-1067) during the 2021 legislative session that would amend admissions standards for state schools. The bill states: “The governing board of a state institution of higher education (institution) may, but is not required to, require a national assessment test score as an eligibility criterion for admission.” In other words, SAT and ACT exam scores would be optional for state institutions as they consider student admissions.

Western’s Reasoning

While critics of this bill believe eliminating the requirement for these tests would negatively impact the ability to assess student readiness for college-level studies, Western sees the many reasons for making these tests optional:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for students to take the exams. At one exam location last November, less than one-third of the students registered for the test were able to take it.
  • Minorities, first-generation students and students with disabilities often face systemic barriers to succeeding on standardized exams by designs that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Test Optional ensures equitable access for these students.
  • Industry publications are reporting schools that have made tests optional are seeing an increase of low-income, first-generation and other underrepresented populations of students applying evidence that these tests can be a barrier to disadvantaged students seeking to continue their education. By eliminating the requirement, greater access is granted to an education.
  • Research suggests that grade point average and student engagement in high school activities and athletics are better predictors of student readiness and potential success in college.
  • Colorado institutions are competing with other states that have made testing optional, thus retaining this requirement renders our state less competitive.
  • Students who wish to submit these assessments still may do so.

Serving the Best Interest of Students

“While the impacts of test optional policies on the applicant pools of small, regional and rural institutions are currently uncertain, we hope legislators and other policy makers work to ensure the admissions practices of all institutions remain focused on serving the best interest of students,” Salsbury said. “Western stands in full support of this change.”

Learn more about the journey to becoming a Mountaineer from Western’s admissions department.



Author Credit: Chris Rourke

Photo Credit: Katherine Mooney

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