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ND colleges discussing 'test optional' for college admissions

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North Dakota public colleges are discussing whether or not to go “test optional” for college admissions.

The state Board of Higher Education adopted a policy to waive the standardized test requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic. That policy has been extended until the summer of 2023.

"One thing I've observed is that out of the 4000 degree-granting, accredited colleges and universities across the US, they're approaching about half to three-quarters of those colleges going 'test-optional' this fall," said North Dakota University System vice-chancellor for academic and student affairs Lisa Johnson.

Johnson said the conversations about tests have come from individual campuses. She said there is concern that use of standardized tests disadvantage people of color, or rural students that may not have access to “test centers.” But she said there is another issue to be worked out, if tests are made optional.

"One of the big things we use standardized test scores for, in all of our colleges and universities, is the distribution of scholarships and financial awards," Johnson said. "So there are some peripheral things we have to work through if we pull away from standardized tests."

Johnson also said if the University System adopts a “test optional” policy, it means campuses will be looking at other measures for admission.

"There could be an entire discussion around variants in calculation of how GPAs (Grade Point Averages) are derived across the state, and the consistency in that," Johnson said.

And Johnson said it may force the System to look at other assessments of student performance that are being piloted across the state’s K-12 system.

"They look at other aspects of student proficiency, about persistence, interest, goals," Johnson said. "And they aren't necessarily measured on a letter grade, or a four point scale, that I think could be useful to the colleges and universities."

North Dakota uses the ACT — American College Test.

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