NACAC, in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and several other organizations, is carefully exploring admission policies and practices in an increasingly test-optional or test-free environment. In a previous post, we provided an overview of the project, which is grounded in the work that the Task Force on Standardized Admission Testing for International and US Students completed in 2021.
“The task force observed that if standardized testing perpetuates or worsens inequities, and if it is to remain a part of the undergraduate admission process at all, it must receive the most stringent of reviews,” according to the task force’s report on standardized testing.
As an extension of this thinking, the committee recommended that colleges’ decisions about their test policies should “include a plan for frequent reviews.” The 2021 task force also noted that simply going test-optional or test-free will not in and of itself universally improve equity. As colleges navigate the immediate future of test-optional and test-free admission, in addition to the broader equity considerations related to college admission, they must ensure that historically marginalized perspectives are front-and-center as admission offices craft policies to adapt to a new legal and political landscape.
NACAC’s role in facilitating conversation about equitable admission practices in the current admission context is to ensure careful examination of admission policies and practices, particularly as it applies to improving equity outcomes for college access.
One of the most significant effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the college admission ecosystem was the relatively rapid and nearly wholesale adoption of test-optional (or test-free, in some cases) admission policies by colleges and universities.
Prior to the pandemic, the biggest challenge to an institution considering moving to a test-optional admission policy was the institutional decision-making thicket that could prove difficult to navigate, in part due to the inertia that can define systems and structures and inhibit movement away from the status quo. COVID-19 short-circuited the process, as colleges moved away from test requirements out of necessity: The admission testing infrastructure—high schools, for the most part—was locked down. The decision was, in many ways, made for colleges and universities as much as by colleges and universities. Now that the pandemic is receding in the distance, colleges and other stakeholders must begin the hard work of assessing whether the switch to test-optional admission will produce hoped-for improvements to equity, a process that will require careful examination.
NACAC is an association that is learning, changing, and growing at the same incredible pace as the field of college admission.
Over the past year, we’ve invested in new education content and technology platforms to help college counselors and admission professionals be successful. At the heart of our work is the belief that responding to our members’ needs and providing value is what will make the association and our profession strong.
With more than 25,000 members now relying on NACAC to optimize their practices, our ambitions around providing the best education and content have only gotten bigger. That’s why we’re excited to announce the launch of the NACAC Podcast Network, a new audio destination that is home to eight great shows representing a wide range of perspectives. Together, this collection covers the scope of college admission from the student, family, counselor, and college perspective.
To say race relations in the United States have been tumultuous over the last year is an understatement. Many Americans and individuals worldwide watched the horrific footage of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police in May 2020. And although one of his killers has since been convicted and jailed, we continue to watch the loved ones of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor fight for justice. It seems like every day there is an incident in the news where a Black student is forced to cut their hair to compete in a sporting event or to walk in their high school graduation ceremony. There have even been instances when white educators made derogatory remarks toward students of color when they thought no one was listening.
Just recently, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Nikole Hannah-Jones, was denied tenure at her alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for a role in which it’s traditionally granted. Many allege the decision was due to her extensive involvement in the 1619 Project—an initiative of The New York Times Magazine that analyzes how slavery shaped American political, social, and economic institutions. These events are just a small sample of what BIPOC individuals face daily, yet some state officials have proposed banning discussions of systemic racism in schools, particularly any context of critical race theory (CRT).
Nov. 1…For some, it’s just another day, but for those of us in college admission, it marks the anniversary of our “first date”—the day when Early Decision and Early Action applications have typically been due and that our work with seniors coalesces.
We recall preaching to them during the spring of their junior year about the importance of starting early and working on their college applications throughout the summer. We replay the melodious songs we sang to our faculty and colleagues about the impact of their letters of recommendation. We also experience pardonable pride as we lead our school community to a date on the calendar that at one time seemed so very far away. We think about the students and families we’ve counseled, the admission colleagues we’ve conversed with, and the floorboards we’ve confessed our frustrations to. And historically, we feel a range of emotions, from excitement to fear to anxiety to relief to sheer exhaustion.
Yet this year, with a global pandemic and the demand for racial equity and justice looming over our anniversary celebration, many of my colleagues and I experienced another emotion on Nov. 1—rage. And as COVID-19 and Racism 2020 tear through our world, they also pervade our profession, prompting a cascading list of uncomfortable yet unavoidable questions.
Editor’s note: A version of this article originally appeared on the Salesforce.org blog. Visit NACAC’s newsroom to learn more about the report referenced below.
Salesforce.org recently partnered with NACAC on a survey of 1,194 four-year higher education institutions to glean insight into how institutions are using data to support their long-term goals. The full report offers insight into many critical aspects of recruiting and admission.
Most significantly — and timely — the report explores how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted recruiting, admission, and enrollment for the Fall 2021 class and those following it.
In times of great crisis, America has depended on higher education to help bring stability to the nation. The Morrill Act of 1862, which established land grant colleges, was enacted during the Civil War. Decades later, Congress passed the G.I. Bill to assist World War II servicemen.
A panel of US college presidents told attendees at this week’s 2020 NACAC Virtual Conference that universities can play a similar role amid the coronavirus crisis. But colleges must adapt, and state and federal dollars are necessary to reach all those in need of support.
“In every moment of great strife and challenge in our nation…America leaned back into educating its citizens and used higher education as a force for good and a force for change,” said Daniel G. Lugo, president of Queens University of Charlotte (NC). “It is important that we not cede ground on what is right about us because, if we do that, we’ll never ever, ever get state governments or the federal government to think of us as a place to make more equitable investments.”
“…We do need to improve, we do need to be more self-conscious and aware,” Lugo added during the discussion, which was moderated by education journalist and author Jeff Selingo. “But too often we cede ground on how good we actually are.”
The work of colleges and universities has never been more urgent, education leader Michael Sorrell told attendees Thursday at the 2020 NACAC Virtual Conference.
In these unprecedented times, higher education institutions have a duty to both students and democratic society, said Sorrell, president of Paul Quinn College (TX). History will judge the ways in which US colleges respond to the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s continued shameful treatment of Black people, and the actions of the current presidential administration, Sorrell said at the conference’s closing session.
He urged attendees to look at what their institution could do differently in this time crisis, which has hit minorities particularly hard.
“I am an advocate of higher education, but I’m also critical of it,” said Sorrell. “I don’t think we’ve done enough, and I don’t think we are who we need to be. If we are honest, we produced the people who produced this moment. We need to fix it.”
Want to make life better for students (and your institution) amid the pandemic?
Speakers featured during a panel discussion on politics, government, and higher education at this week’s 2020 NACAC Virtual Conference offered two suggestions.
Pick up the phone.
“These are very tough times we are living in,” Paul Mounds, chief of staff for the governor of Connecticut, told attendees. “…This is not the time to be shy about your financial situation. This is not the time to be shy about the situations facing your students…Government needs to hear directly from you.”
If US higher education is to survive, it must refocus its efforts and prioritize students, NACAC CEO Angel B. Pérez said Tuesday in remarks at the 2020 NACAC Virtual Conference.
Like many sectors of the US economy, the admission profession has felt the effects of the coronavirus crisis on its institutional budgets, Pérez noted. But those concerns are secondary when compared to the larger crisis looming for higher ed, he said.
“While we all understandably worry about our schools and our institutions, we have to remember that without students, nothing else in the educational endeavor matters,” Pérez said in his first keynote address as the association’s chief executive officer. “…As we move away from enforcing a code of ethics, NACAC will act publicly and with determination when policy or practice threatens to cause harm to or perpetuate inequities among students.”