Is It Fair to Award Scholarships Based on the SAT?

Douglas Belkin:

Next week faculty at the University of California will weigh in on whether to drop the SAT as a requirement for admission due to concern that the test is biased. Their recommendation prompts another question with a potentially bigger impact for students and their families: Should schools continue to use SAT scores to award scholarships?

Colleges and universities give out about $30 billion a year in merit aid, which is often based on a student’s SAT or ACT. An additional $2 billion in merit aid distributed by states hinges on standardized test scores.

The University of California System, which collectively receives more applications with SAT scores than any other system, is reviewing whether to stop mandating the test. A decision is expected this year, and a committee looking into the issue is expected to submit a recommendation next week.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts stopped using the test for merit scholarships last year, said Andrew Palumbo, dean of admission. Instead, the school is weighing grades, community service and leadership. The school has made the SAT optional for applicants since 2007. “Using the tests doesn’t help us achieve our goals” of diversifying the student body, he said. Students who apply without the test are just as successful as undergraduates as peers who do submit the test, he said.