Colorado lawmakers move to axe state’s admissions test mandate

Dive Brief:

  • A bill working through Colorado’s legislature would remove a mandate that the state’s public higher education institutions require first-time, first-year applicants to submit admissions test scores.

  • Proponents of loosening entrance exams requirements support the legislation, which passed the House of Representatives 42-22 on Friday. It now moves to the Senate. 

  • Most institutions and systems, citing the pandemic’s effects, didn’t require SAT or ACT scores for the fall 2021 admissions cycle, and some are extending their test-optional policies.

Dive Insight:

The health crisis shut down many of the usual test sites, such as K-12 schools, and continues to hamper students from taking the tests. Institutions took notice, and at least 1,370 four-year schools aren’t requiring scores for fall 2022, according to a database maintained by FairTest, a nonprofit that lobbies for more equitable uses of standardized exams. FairTest‘s count includes colleges that were test-optional prior to the pandemic. A small subset, including Florida’s public colleges, declined to shift to test-optional policies, however. 

Colorado is one of only a few states where lawmakers have a say in admissions tests requirements. Typically, those decisions are left to colleges or higher ed governing bodies.

Bob Schaeffer, FairTest’s executive director, said the organization “strongly supports” the Colorado bill and “is working closely” with allies in the state — including campus officials, and “several” legislators and Colorado regents — to move it forward. State lawmakers temporarily gave colleges the option to waive test score submissions for first-time, first-year students last year.

All of the state’s four-year public colleges support the new bill. Officials at some of those institutions called out equity problems the tests pose, The Denver Post reported, a complaint testing critics commonly cite. 

Under the bill, public colleges must submit to the state an annual report describing their first-time, first-year student cohort.

Colorado’s higher ed department would then publish a separate report yearly detailing which institutions chose to go test optional and other student-level metrics, such as the percentage of students who submitted a test score, broken down by race, ethnicity and gender.

A decision to make test-optional policies permanent in Colorado would fuel an ongoing migration from the entrance exams. 

A state judge in California last year ordered the University of California System to stop using the SAT and ACT in admissions largely because students with disabilities had trouble taking them during the pandemic. An appeals court backed the ruling. 

The UC System’s governing board voted last spring to phase out admissions exam requirements, a decision considered to have major implications for colleges and test makers.

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