The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, Massachusetts will not consider standardized test results in its admissions process for the next two years as part of a pilot program.
Kayla Hollins, the Director of Admissions at MCLA, says the public college with around 1,200 students is asking applicants for the Fall 2021 and 2022 semesters to leave out their SAT or ACT results.
“We’re piloting that kind of as a response to COVID, as a response to the institution’s ongoing efforts around diversity, equity and inclusion, and it just made sense to move in this direction this year,” she told WAMC.
While many national higher ed institutions are test-optional, being fully test-blind is much less common. Nearby Hampshire College in Amherst went fully test-blind in 2014. According to Inside Higher Ed, MCLA is part of a larger trend of colleges pursuing a test-blind admission policy this year due the challenges posed by the pandemic. Given the equity issues the public health crisis has underlined – with the CDC acknowledging that racial and ethnic minorities have been harder hit by the disease – Hollins says the move ties together a larger institutional mission to a logistical one.
“Data indicates that standardized tests aren’t an equitable process for students, where that’s on a socio-economic level or a race and ethnicity level," she said. "So it’s in line with some of the different pieces that MCLA is working on – kind of a diversity, equity and inclusion audit, I guess you can call it.”
Without standardized test results, students will be judged on a more personal basis.
“There’s a buzzword in the admissions world, ‘holistic approach,’ right?" said Hollins. "But what that really means is that we’re going to review all the other pieces a student sends to us – so, their high school transcript, their letters of recommendation and essay, any sort of extracurricular activities that they submit, and really just reviewing all of that as a standalone. So based on the student themselves, without any sort of connection amongst all the students, if that makes sense.”
MCLA is experimenting with the policy as a part of the state’s Department of Higher Education test-optional pilot program. In addition to reporting to the DHE, it will collect its own metrics on how the gambit pays off.
“Hopefully, an increase in enrollment, an increase in qualified applications," said Hollins. "The retention piece is going to play a part further down the line once students start to enroll. And all those data pieces will be looked at thoroughly to make sure that we are in a place where we can move from a pilot to a definitive status.”
MCLA joins the region’s other public college in not prioritizing standardized test results.
“Berkshire Community College, at our very core, is open enrollment and open access," Christina Wynn is BCC’s interim dean of business and outreach. "So that means we provide lots of inroads for applicants to come and lean with us. And frankly, we don’t require SATS as part of our admissions process.”
The college is in Pittsfield, about 20 miles south of North Adams, and has a student body of around 2,200.
“We look for students who have completed high school or a high school equivalent – meaning the GED or the HiSet – and once they have submitted that information to us, that’s really what we require as far as admissions go," said Wynn. "We’re so happy that MCLA had made these changes. It’s certainly a real benefit for their students and for them as an institution, but that we have also been doing this for a long time, we haven’t required SAT scores.”