Study: Majority Of Colleges Could Remain Test-Optional

Students at UCLA. Courtesy photo

Most (68%) college admissions staff expect their colleges to remain test-optional or “test-blind” permanently, according to research released this week by Inside Higher Education. The survey, conducted by Gallup for Inside Higher Education surveyed more than 400 U.S.-based admissions offices. Some 79% of private colleges said they plan to permanently remain test-optional or test-blind while 60% of public universities reported the same.

“Stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic have led to the cancellation of standardized test administrations this year,” the report said. “As a result, many colleges that formerly required applicants to submit standardized test scores waived that requirement.”

From the Inside Higher Education and Gallup survey

The robust survey was conducted during the month of August and gives a snapshot of the college admissions climate. More admissions officers than ever before are “very concerned” about meeting their institution’s new student enrollment goals. Some 60% of admissions directors reported being “very concerned” — a 6% increase from last year and 14% increase from 2013. After increases in 2014, 2015, and 2016, the rate of “very concerned” admissions directors was largely staying flat at about 54% to 55%. Until the coronavirus pandemic upended higher education as we know it.

From the Inside Higher Education and Gallup survey

Another 30% of admissions directors are “moderately concerned” about meeting institutional admissions goals. Just 10% of respondents reported being not too concerned or not concerned at all. When breaking it down by public versus private colleges, public university admissions directors have a higher percentage (63%) of being “very concerned” compared to private university admissions directors (56%).

From the Inside Higher Education and Gallup survey

Just 39% of respondents expect enrollment of their incoming classes to be the same or higher than last year. The rest (61%) expect it to be lower. And another 79% said that last spring’s campus closures hurt their colleges in recruiting. The results are some major changes in the recruiting approach by many admissions offices. For example, 62% of admissions offices say they’ll increase recruiting efforts for online students — up 11 percentage points from 51% in 2019. Meanwhile, the recruitment efforts of international students plunges from 45% in 2019 to 31% this year. Recruitment of out-of-state students also had a major decrease from 57% to 49%. But recruitment of first-generation students, part-time undergraduates, minority students, and transfer students all increase by 7% or 8%.

“The pandemic has altered colleges’ focus on certain prospective student populations,” the report reads. “Since last year, the percentage of admissions directors who strongly agree or agree their college is very likely to focus undergraduate recruiting on online students has increased by 11 points, from 51 percent to 62 percent. The current figure is the highest measured to date and is 21 points higher than when the item was first asked in 2015.”

From the Inside Higher Education and Gallup survey

Read the full report here.


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