3 SUNY schools scrap mandatory SAT scores for applicants

Average SAT scores around the United States have remained stagnant over the last five years, spawning a movement to rely less on its numbers when evaluating a student’s academic standing.

In 2013, only 43 percent of the test-takers met or exceeded the benchmark score of 1550 out of a possible 2400 on the SAT, according to a September report released by the College Board, which organizes the SAT. The report also said that students that achieve a grade of 1550 or higher have a 65 percent chance of completing freshman year of college with a grade point average of B-minus or better.

The scores for students enrolled at Oswego State have fluctuated over the last few years. On the verbal section of the SAT, freshmen admitted into Oswego State scored 544 in 2008, 546 in 2009, 549 in 2010 and 545 in 2011 and 2012, each time high above the national average, according to the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment. The math scores saw a similar trend, hitting a peak in 2010 before falling back to 2008 levels last year.

Critics of the SAT test claim that in a period of overwhelming student testing, with students coming from all kinds of demographics, the SAT is not a good tool for measuring students’ ability.

SUNY Potsdam recently changed its application policy, with SUNY approval, giving students the option to submit SAT scores. SUNY Delhi and Empire State College have followed suit and remain the only schools in the SUNY system with this policy.

“There in fact have been hundreds of scholarly articles published in thepast decade regarding the predictive nature of standardized test score versus student success in college,” said Bruce Brydges, associate vice president of institutionaleffectiveness and enrollment management at SUNY Potsdam. “Generally the results are quite conclusive that SAT scores in particular are a very weak predictor ofsuccess and something that most admissions counselors would tell you isthat high-school grade scores are a much more reliable predictor of student success at college.”

According to Brydges, the new policy has had beneficial results. There has been a 17 percent increase in Potsdam’s number of applications, a 113 percent increase of applications from minority groups, a 13 percent increase of enrolled minority group students and a slight increase in the high-school GPA of accepted students.

The College Board report also noted that 46 percent of the 1.66 million test takers this year were from minority groups, up a percentage point from 2012.

“SUNY Potsdam still accepts SAT scores and uses them for merit scholarships,” Brydges said. “However the key is that our admissions use a holistic approach that considers each student individually, taking into account high-school GPA, types of courses taken in high-school, a writing sample, interview, letters of reference and additional activity sheet.”

According to the Admissions Office at Oswego State, the SAT or the ACT is required for admission and is used as part of the evaluation process, but there is no firm cut-off score and no number that ensures acceptance.

“Students would be exempt from the SAT if they’ve been out of school for a few years or are not a native English speaker,” said Dan Griffin, interim director of admissions.

Griffin also said that Oswego State uses the holistic style of application like most schools: a combination of test scores, high-school grades, involvement in extracurricular activities. This applies to both the early decision and regular applying times.

“We also look at the fact that students may or may not do well on taking tests,” Griffin said. “If a student has a lower GPA, then we look for a higher SAT score. If they have a higher GPA then we look for a lower SAT.”

Brydges said that it is “highly probable” that other SUNY colleges will adopt an optional SAT policy sometime in the near future. Colleges and universities across the country have been experimenting with it for some time. As for Oswego State, the SATs remain an important part of the admission process and will unlikely adopt an optional policy of its own.

“In the short tern, I can’t see us moving in that direction,” Griffin said.

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