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UNC System schools won't require SAT or ACT for admissions through fall of 2024


Students applying to Uiversity of North Carolina System schools will not have to submit SAT or ACT scores for another two years. The UNC Board of Governors decided Thursday to extend its waiver through fall of 2024.

The problem at the start of the pandemic was that testing was routinely canceled or postponed. The problem now is the disruption the pandemic had in the classroom over the past two years.

“There is a real danger that some of our students have not been exposed to some of the material on the standardized test,” the UNC System’s chief academic officer, Kimberly Van Noort, told a committee Wednesday.

She also pointed out that two-thirds of colleges and universities have adopted test-optional admission policies at least through 2023.

Temple Sloan, the chair of that committee, said it’s a bridge too far to do away with standardized tests, but another waiver makes sense.

“What we’re trying to do is do what’s right for the universities for the next two years, keep them competitive with their peer groups, and be fair to the high school students who have been negatively impacted by the pandemic,” Sloan said.

The full board approved the measure with no discussion and only one no vote. That came from Thom Goolsby, who spoke in Wednesday’s committee meeting. He said the concern seems to be that the pandemic has kept students from meeting UNC’s minimum academic requirements.

“Which then makes me question whether or not they’ve received enough curricula to be able to come to college and succeed in college,” Goolsby said.

The Board of Governors initially voted in 2020 for a one-year waiver of standardized tests. It then extended it in 2021 through fall of 2022, with several board members voting against it.

Raymond Palma, the student representative on the board, said students have appreciated those waivers.

“GPA is an extremely strong indicator of success," Palma said. "In college, when you’re in the classroom, you’re not taking standardized tests. You're taking courses the same way you are in high school, and that’s exactly what GPA measures.”

More than half of state college systems now have test-optional or test-blind admissions policies at least through 2023 and many others will decide soon, said Bob Schaeffer, head of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing.

Many schools, most of them private like Wake Forest, were test-optional even before the pandemic due to concerns that students who could afford prep coaching had an advantage.

"The successful experience of those test-optional provided a model for others to be comfortable that they could eliminate test score requirements, not undermine academic quality, they could still make fair and accurate admission decisions, and, as a bonus, they saw the diversity increase in their applicant pool and the students on their campuses,” Shaeffer said.

Several state systems, like those in California, Maine and Colorado, have gone permanently test-optional or test-blind. The thought of doing the same at the UNC System has come up before. Sloan, who chairs the committee that would advance such a recommendation, said it’s not worth having that discussion any time soon.

Test scores may still be required for scholarships, honors college and other special programs within the UNC System.

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Lisa Worf traded the Midwest for Charlotte in 2006 to take a job at WFAE. She worked with public TV in Detroit and taught English in Austria before making her way to radio. Lisa graduated from University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in English.