URBANA — With the coronavirus pandemic making it harder to take standardized tests, the University of Illinois may drop its admissions requirement of an ACT or SAT score for the fall semester of 2021.
The board of trustees’ executive committee approved the one-time waiver, which had already received approval from the Springfield and Chicago campuses.
With the trustees’ approval, the board gave President Tim Killeen the ability to execute the waiver at the Urbana campus in consultation with Chancellor Robert Jones after the academic Senate considers it.
The executive committee of the Urbana campus’s academic senate discussed the issue Wednesday, voting to solicit feedback from senators in a web poll for a final vote next week.
Senate committee members said they expect the one-time waiver to pass.
“The ACT and SAT test dates have been canceled throughout the spring and into the early summer. We don’t know when they’re going to start up again, because of the challenges related to physical distancing,” Executive Vice President Barb Wilson said.
“And at one point, the companies thought they might move to home testing, but all of those proposals are on hold right now for a series of technological reasons. So currently, students would have a very difficult time finding a way to take the ACT or SAT exams.”
Only undergraduates applying for fall 2021 admission would have the option, and international students would still have to pass an English-proficiency exam, said Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Kevin Pitts.
Wilson said the standardized test scores already are just one factor out of many that admissions considers, including GPA, grade trends, course rigor, honors and AP classes, extracurricular activities and leadership activities.
Making the tests optional “would put a little more weight on those factors in lieu of the ACT or SAT score,” Wilson said.
Wilson also cited several other universities that have made the standardized tests optional for fall 2021, including Harvard, Penn, Cornell, Washington, Indiana, Virginia and Michigan State.
Pitts said the option for fall 2021 would be separate from the broader issue of standardized test requirements.
Several universities have permanently dropped the testing requirement, as some argue the tests aren’t a good predictor of student success and reflect more on students’ ability to take tests and afford expensive test prep.
The test makers argue that while making the test optional increases applications, the option doesn’t increase the diversity of those who ultimately enroll.
“We’re happy to engage in those discussions in the future, but that’s really not what we’re talking about right now,” Pitts said.