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Illinois Public Universities Are Saying Goodbye to the SAT and ACT

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Remember long ACT prep nights? Expensive tutors? Stressing over your score? No more. Next year, Illinois residents won't have to submit standardized test scores when they apply to public universities — thanks to a newly signed law.

Research has shown for years that standardized tests like the ACT and SAT aren’t accurate predictors of how successful a student will be in college. High scores often correlate with high family income.

Grade point average is a much more reliable gauge of future success. Sol Jensen is Northern Illinois University’s Vice President for Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications.

NIU went totally “test-blind” in early 2020 before the pandemic. Many at that point had adopted test-optional policies, but they were one of the few not looking at test scores at all. They saw it as an equity issue.

“Students predominantly who had high GPAs and lower test scores were students of color, first-generation students, low-income students and students who spoke a second language at home,” he said.

It’s not just about admissions, either. NIU first cut tests from merit scholarships, where those low-income and students of color often missed out because of standardized tests. That means it’s a student retention issue as well.

“Not only was this a way to make it more equitable at the initial merit scholarship stage but also from a retention standpoint, now these students who did receive scholarships before are going to get it the first year, the second year, all the way to their to their last year, which will help them to graduate,” said Jensen.

Jensen says COVID-19 did play a role in getting this bill passed. Many students were unable to take the ACT or SAT, and even if they could, he says it wasn’t fair for universities to analyze it.

So, even if schools were slowly adopting test-optional policies, the pandemic expedited the process.