Free ACT/SAT Exams Boost College Enrollment Rates


College enrollment rates increase when high schools cover the cost of college entrance exams, new research suggests.

The finding — published by Education Finance and Policy — is based on a study of six classes of high school juniors who attended Michigan schools from 2003-04 to 2007-08. The state has required teens to take a college entrance exam since 2007.

“Overall, the policy increased the probability that students would enroll in college by about 2 percent,” according to an Education Week article about the new research. “Students at schools with higher poverty rates increased their college enrollment rates by 6 percent, and those students who had a low to middling probability of taking the ACT before the policy took effect saw their rates improve by 5 percent afterward.”

Researcher Joshua Hyman said the study shows that the ACT and SAT serve as “a gateway to four-year colleges,” especially for students who may not otherwise consider postsecondary education a possibility.

“I show that for every ten poor students taking a college entrance exam and scoring college-ready, there are an additional five poor students who do not take the test but who would score college-ready if they did,” Hyman told Chalkbeat.

Despite the findings, the study notes that providing free access to college admission exams is “far from a cure-all.”

“There remains a large supply of disadvantaged students who are high-achieving and not on the path to enrolling at a four-year college,” the study notes. “Researchers and policy makers are still faced with the important question of which policies can further stem the tide of rising inequality in educational attainment.”

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