Here’s How Louisiana Now Admits Students to Public Colleges Without the SAT or ACT

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Diving brief:

  • Applicants to Louisiana public colleges who have earned college credit or an associate’s degree no longer need to submit standardized test scores for admission.
  • The Louisiana Board of Directors approved last week new ways of admission. Applicants must complete a high school program and demonstrate competence in math or English. However, they no longer need to provide scores on assessments like the ACT or SAT if they received an associate’s degree or college credit.
  • Students can also earn a high enough GPA on a number of “core” high school courses to qualify for admissions. Thresholds for the required GPA, number of college credits, or test score vary by institution — admissions standards at Louisiana State University, the flagship institution, are the strictest, for example.

Overview of the dive:

The coronavirus pandemic accelerated a movement to weaken standardized testing mandates in college admissions. Prior to the spread of COVID-19, several institutions had adopted optional or no-test policies, the latter referring to colleges refusing to review assessment scores. But testing without testing and blind testing were not the norm.

Today, more than 1,700 colleges do not require SAT or ACT scores for the fall 2023 admissions cycle, according to the latest count from FairTest, an organization advocating for minimized use of standardized exams.

Critics of entrance exams argue that they reinforce barriers for disadvantaged students, namely low-income populations who cannot afford the same extensive test preparation as their wealthier counterparts.

The SAT and ACT have also been called racist instruments, a charge that test providers deny. Test providers and supporters have acknowledged education inequities but said their products were not to blame. On the contrary, they argue, the tests help connect students to scholarship opportunities.

As pandemic-related restrictions have eased, institutions are considering the future of entrance exams.

As of 2013, Louisiana law requires all high school students to take the ACT, whether or not they go on to college.

However, the latest decision by the Louisiana regents appears to reflect a diminishing role for admissions for the ACT and SAT. Previously, a student had to have a high enough total score on one of these tests to be eligible for admissions.

Officials said the new admissions pathway helps achieve the state’s goal of doubling the number of degrees awarded each year by 2030.

“We are proud to take this uniquely national approach to expanding college admissions opportunities,” Higher Education Commissioner Kim Hunter Reed said in a statement. “As we advance the practice of blurring the lines between high school and college for students, it makes sense to recognize advanced coursework achievement in college admissions decisions.”

Admission requirements vary by institution, although all students must demonstrate proficiency in math or English, including scoring high enough in those subjects on the ACT, SAT, or similar exam.

Applicants must meet one of the following standards for admission to one of the state’s regional public institutions, such as Southeastern Louisiana University:

  • At least a 2.0 GPA on core state high school courses.
  • First 12 college credits with at least a 2.0 GPA.
  • An associate’s degree.
  • At least a 20 on the ACT or SAT equivalent.

The best score on the ACT is a 36.

Admission requirements to historically black institutions across the state are nearly the same, except applicants only need nine early college credits.

The thresholds for admission to Louisiana State’s flagship campus are either at least a 3.0 GPA on core courses, or first 18 college credits with a 2.5 GPA, or an associate’s degree, or at least an ACT score of 25.

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