ANNAPOLIS – Salisbury University wants to be the first public college in Maryland to make the SAT optional, with an eye to the growing pool of minority, immigrant and first-in-family applicants that are changing the face of Maryland’s college population.
Officials of the 6,100-student university on Maryland’s Eastern Shore decided to follow the lead of a handful of colleges nationwide and are proposing to drop the SAT requirement for applicants. But it remains to be seen whether the idea will catch on statewide.
“Beyond traditional measures of academic performance like grades and SAT scores we value and consider a student’s ability to contribute to our university using their leadership skills, their altruistic contributions and a multitude of other talents,” said Jane Dane, Dean of Enrollment Management at Salisbury.
Dane cited three reasons for the effort to change admissions standards: an unusually large dip in statewide scores on the revised SAT test last year, a revised set of admissions criteria that go beyond test scores and grades, and the larger numbers of minority and immigrant students, who tend to do less well overall on standardized tests.
SAT scores made a good predictor of performance when college populations were mostly white and male, said Dr. William Sedlacek, a professor in the College of Education at the University of Maryland, College Park, but it doesn’t hold true for more diverse groups of applicants.
Women now make up 56 to 57 percent of college populations across the U.S., and the University System of Maryland (USM) predicts that by 2009, half of the state’s high school graduates will be non-white.
Even the revised SAT has its limitations, Sedlacek said. “Just going with the essay, unless you’re looking for different things in the essay, you’ll just get another version of the verbal section.”
For the change to happen, Salisbury’s proposal would have to be approved by the Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland, which oversees all state public universities.
Either way, it is unlikely that other Maryland universities, public or private, will follow Salisbury’s example.
Yvette Mozie-Ross, the Associate Dean of Enrollment Management at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said she hasn’t found any indications that the SAT is unreliable for female and minority students.
Barbara Gill, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Maryland, College Park also said the administration there has no plans to make standardized testing optional. Faculty at College Park review every application individually, looking at the entire application and not just test scores, said Gill.
“We don’t consider the SAT the holy grail of admissions,” said William Conley, Dean of Enrollment and Academic Services at Johns Hopkins University. Still, Conley said, it’s useful when there is a pool of 14,000 applications and limited time to get through them.
Dane said reviewing applications without SAT scores will take a lot more time, but is a better tool for finding students with a proven track record of good performance.
Salisbury conducted a study of the 2005 freshman class, looking at both SAT scores and high school grade point averages. The survey found that of the 247 students who came in with high SAT scores (1200 or above), 11.6 percent achieved a GPA of only 2.0 (or roughly a C) or less at the end of the year.
By contrast, of the 233 students who had the highest high school grades on admission, only 3.24 percent had freshman year GPAs lower than 2.0.
Caren Scoropanos, a spokeswoman for the College Board, the non-profit organization that administers the SAT, thinks the test is a more valid predictor than GPA alone.
“The SAT is a consistent measure across the United States…” Scoropanos said. “GPA in one school doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing in another school. . . .If I were a student, I would want colleges to have more information about me,” she added.
St. John’s College, a small, private liberal arts college in Annapolis, has never required SAT scores as part of the application. But Roberta Gable, director of admissions, said that most applicants send them in anyway.
USM Chancellor Kirwan did not say what the chances are that Salisbury’s proposal will be accepted. He said the decision will be made on the basis of how well it suits Salisbury, and what criteria they use to evaluate those who choose not to submit SAT scores.