By Ross Dubberly
The University of Chicago—the third-ranked university in the country—has decided that, effectively, it would like to sacrifice its quality and reputation by lowering its admission standards. And should it move forward with its plans—announced last month—to abolish SAT/ACT requirements for undergraduate applicants, it will be well on its way to doing just that. Abandoning this merit-based factor in admissions will have harmful consequences that the university is conveniently sweeping under the rug.
UChicago’s professed reason for making this move is to attract more “low-income and first-generation students.” But anyone who reads the report from Inside Higher Ed on the matter learns that “diversity”—racial and ethnic diversity, of course—is also a major motivation, perhaps the primary one.
“For colleges that use the SAT or ACT, a major challenge has been study after study showing that wealthier students generally fare better than do less wealthy students. And white students, on average, perform much better than do black and Latino students,” Inside Higher Ed writes.
There is very little, it seems, that university administrators and academics won’tdo to get into the good graces of the “diversity” gods—even at the expense of their own school’s respectability, as UChicago’s move demonstrates.
But in the first place, the implication that UChicago’s requirement of an SAT/ACT score is, by its very nature, impeding diversity is simply inaccurate. As professors Nathan Kuncel and Paul Sackett recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Recent research demonstrates that [SAT/ACT] testing-optional schools have been enrolling increasingly diverse student bodies. But the same is true of schools that require testing[emphasis added].”
More evidence in favor of Kuncel and Sackett’s argument—pointed out by Inside Higher Ed, no less—is Measuring Success, a recent book in which the writers demonstrate “that test-optional admissions policies have not increased the diversity of higher education or had other positive impacts.”
But even if this were not the case, abolishing the SAT/ACT requirement in pursuit of some sort of egalitarian, racial and ethnic diversification of a campus is foolish.
Well, first, by lowering the standards in this fashion, one might as well say to minority applicants, “Look: You are not good enough to make it in here with our admission standards. But don’t worry! We are going to help you by making it easier.”
Such a move is an insult to all applicants—including minority students—who worked hard, made good grades, and actually blew the SAT or ACT out of the water.
Second, it will only exacerbate tensions on campus. Rightly or wrongly, people will wonder whether minority students actually had what it took to make it into the University of Chicago, or whether they are there because they caught a break with the drop of the SAT/ACT requirement.
Third, it robs students of a useful tool to stand out among their peers. Applicants to UChicago can no longer hope to catch the eyes of the admission board, to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack, with stellar SAT or ACT scores.
While admittedly, standardized tests like the SAT/ACT are certainly not the be-all and end-all, they are, in the words of Drs. Kuncel and Sackett, “very effective tools”—tools that “provide invaluable information to admission offices.” As such, one cannot help but wonder why admission boards should be arbitrarily robbed of these essential tools that formerly aided them in their attempt to bring in the most qualified students possible.
After all, why should such a helpful test requirement—and, in effect, the concept of merit itself—be sacrificed on the altar of racial and ethnic diversity?
Ross Dubberly is the co–chairman of the University of Georgia Young Americans for Freedom chapter.