Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Ask the Administrator: What are Four-Year Colleges Up To?
Do you think that the growing number of non-selective private and public 4-year colleges that are going test-optional for admissions (or even transcript-optional as Goucher is doing) are in some sense trying to become 4-year versions of community colleges? Or maybe not trying, but drifting in that direction anyway? Back in the day there were quite a number of private 2-year colleges, in the East. But then, 4-year became the gold standard for middle class and upper middle class students, and the 2-years seem to be gone.
Have a question? Ask the Administrator at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com.
This is the same game that law schools have used with the LSAT, except since they can't go test-optional for the LSAT (because they'd be laughed out of the ABA) they divert low-LSAT students into part-time or night programs to pump up the scores for their ranked program.
One strategy is the obvious one: limit FTIC freshmen (the only thing that the rating folks care about) to ones with higher scores and a higher chance of graduating on time. Then encourage transfers (without an AA if they have good but not great scores) to increase sophomore enrollment and fill upper division classes.
I'm less sure if the other strategy is trying to game the rankings (as Chris suggests above) or just being practical. Students with an AA tend to do OK because they have already made that first cut, so they will fill classrooms that have lots of space due to attrition at a less selective 4-year school and are likely to graduate (which does help them on some metrics).
In fact the few colleges that have gone from test-optional to 'test-blind' have done so for very specific stated reasons, not the least of which is the growing realization that there is a better correlation between SAT/ACT test scores and socioeconomic status, than between test scores and college success.
And, I know as a fact that USN&WR will not even deign to rank a college that does not have incoming student SAT/ACT data, so any accusation of 'gaming the system' is not valid.
DD, if you really wanted to know more about this subject, all you would have to do is stroll across The Valley to Hampshire College, where they would be only too happy to explain their reasons why they chose to go 'test-blind':
"Tests aren't part of Hampshire's pedagogy, so why would we use a test to determine which students would thrive here? The SAT is essentially one test on one day in a given year. Students' high school academic records, their history of civic engagement, their letters of recommendation from mentors, and their ability to represent themselves through their essays trump anything the SAT could tell us,"
For example, let's assume some moderately selective LAC (say Birmingham-Southern) typically admits 10 students per year and the average ACT is 24. Birmingham-Southern now goes test-optional. The students who apply with high test scores still submit them; students who apply with low test scores no longer do. You admit 10 students, 5 of whom didn't submit test scores (likely scored below the old average of 24) and 5 of whom did (likely scored above the old average of 24). The ACT average you can report now goes up since you've thrown out a lot of the low scores but kept the high ones.