28: Test-Optional Admission Decisions at Bloomfield College w/ Adam Castro

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Adam Castro, Vice President for Enrollment Management at Bloomfield College, discusses the potential accessibility, enrollment and academic benefits of test-optional admission decisions.

It breaks your heart when you're put inthat position, and you know you have a talent to student in front of you andyou just can't bring them to your campus, and so that's what I'l, startit you're listening to enrolment growth,university from helic education, the best professional development podcastfor higher education leaders looking to grow in Romant at their college oruniversity, whether you're looking for fresh and Roman growth techniques andstrategies or tools and resources. You've come to the right place. Let'sget into the show, welcome back to anroman growthuniversity, a proud member of the connect Edu podcast network, I'Mari,Culson AVP of marketing at helics education and we're here today withAdam Castro. Vice President for Inroman Management at Bloomfield College Adamwelcome to the show terrict, thanks for having me appreciate it. I'm so excitedto have this conversation today about the accessibility, the enrollment andthe academic benefits of test optional admission decisions, but before we divetoo deep into that Atam, can you get the listeners a little bit betterunderstanding of those Bluefield college and your role there sure soblue fill college is a small private for your institution up in North NewjeJersey, not too far from New York City and right next to a major ADROPA Cityin New Jersey, Newark best known for the airport. You know we serve a veryinteresting student body, I mean we have about two thousand students. Wereyou know, majority of our students or first time full time, college studentsof Traditional Age, we're minority majority about half of our students,are of africanamerican descent and we're about thirty percent HispanicLatino, and that number is growing pretty rapidly. Another thing thatmakes us pretty unique is we serve a very high need student population froma financial ATP point, our average household income has ranged betweentwenty six thousand and thirty housand. Over the last severol years I wasextremely low. We have a seventy...

...percent pell eligibility right, whichis by far the highest rate, Orfor your institutions in New Jersey and reallymakes us a bit of an outlier nationally in terms of institutions that are notopen in amission an and serve a population that is, seventy percent ormore pellowigable. There's only handful of colleges out there that do that. Sowe take. You know our mission very seriously and it's certainly one ofaccess from an emission standpontd. I'm always saying noere, looking forreasons, tha give students a chance, so we're working with underrepresentay andpopulations, and you know we're trying to find those students that have themotivation to see at the college level. So you know, rather than you know,being a selective institution where we're trying to find you know reasonsor ways to really shape the funnel and increasing thes selectivity of theinstitution, and maybe even the profile of the institution were much morerooted into a mission of access and that something that were very, veryproud of, but it also makes us unique and it brings on you- know severalchallenges which I'm sure will talk about today. In terms of my role, asvice president for Roman management, I oversee the operations of admissionceFinancialat, a marketing at the college. I've been at the college for aboutfourteen years now I actually came up on the emission side, so I started youknow as an emissions counselor on the road doing everything did it forseveral years, ive pretty much held every role on the Edmission side andI've been at the vice president level. Now for about six years, Awesome Adam,you mentioned how many of your students come from households with highfinancialneeds, seventy percent being pelheligible. Why is standardizedtesting in general a consistent barrier for this population? Yeah? I mean, Ithink it's really a a matter of economics yeah. I just don't thinkstudents that are coming from you know from low income. Families are able toafford Testprat. You know they can't afford it. The princonerviews of theWorld D and so right, there you'R Goin to have it uneven playing fo betweenstudents that you dow need to take the...

...sat in order to get into college thatcan afford test breath and then also students against students that you knowcan afford n they're taking multiple multiple classes, private tutoring,whatever it may be, that's giving them a leg up, because there's certainly anaspect of you know practice and familiarity with the exam that go alongwith good test core. I think we can all admit that at this point, and then Ithink you know this really changed, and this is some certainly something that'shappened in New Jersey is when I started in two thousand and three and Iwas on the road, I was working with a ton of test prep courses, ECTRICLAactivities in the high schools. You know after school programs or erefocused just on test. Prep, where they had teachers, they had volunteers,doing those type of things and those of all woul dried up, and this may be justa New Jersey thing, but I imagine that you know, as these towns and schooldisticts are defunded and you know rising costs, I mean at the first thingthey go. Are these xttrick e activities and those are essentially gone with theschools that I work with so without he that additional free help? You know itbecomes a huge barrier for lower, come students to be able to really getcomfortable with with statardized testing. But you know beyond that to dowell on it, and I think you know that's become even more apparent, reson yearsand now talk about why you believe, there's a much better academiccorrelation than test cores to ensure a student will be academally, successful,a bloomfield and what that is yeah wel. I think this is also depending on theschool. It depends on. The school depends on the sceden population, sowhen we were deciding whether we wanted to go test optional or not, it wasreally me that was the one that was on the fence for years. I mean this is aconversation that we've had for several years of Boonfield and my biggest issuewas: you know we deal with a lot of you know large public somewould sayovercrowded high schools, you know, and the curriculum at these high schools,not to mention the transcripting at these high schools, because New Jersey,we don't have standardized transcripting, which is also a problem,but the curriculum varies from school t...

...school on thisyear to district and itcould be wildely, and so that has a huge impact in our ability to evaluatewhether or not a student is college ready. Now the sat or the Act hasalways been that second indicator, like that warm blanket. You know they givethis another. You know attribute of a student from an academic standpointthat says whether or not they may or may not be college ready, and it wasalways kind of that safety blanket for us and in recent years you know, I'velooked at it a little bit differently and- and I really wanted to dive in thedata. So I mean that's exactly what I did I mean I took my assumptions and Ikind of threw them out the window, and I said, let's just see what the datatells us and I think the biggest thing for us was. I mean it was clear thatsats as a standalone attibute had almost zero correlation with studentsuccess at Mofil College and the way we determined that was you know one of ourbiggest barrier because of the student population in which we served is reallythe first semester academically. You know a lot of our students are notready for the college atmosphere, the schedule, the time management and sothat first semester is hugely important, probably more important than studentscoming from other demographics or other institutions, and so we found that thedirect correlation between first term performance and then ultimately, anability for a students persist and eventually graduatly in a timely manner,was almost completely geared toward their academic performance.Inconsistency at the high school level, so they F, they were consistentlygetting tees are higher in their core college brepth and honors Coursework atthe high school level. That was translating almost directly to theirperformance in the first term, and it was pretty shocking how close thesestudents, once they were kind of segmented out of our total populationof Refreshman class, how close they...

...were performing to high school and thestudents. They were getting had a three point, one in high school. Getting athree point, one. You know in their first term for Sudent teer had a twopoint: eight you know may have dropped. You know were a little bit had a higherlikely hid of dropping to maybe a two point: six, but we're stillacademically okay after that first term, and they were re able to persist. So Imean I think it was just you know, making sure that we got reallycomfortable with the data and once WEU started to really tear out what washappening. It became really clear that we were looking, I'm probably waiting,attributes a little bit incorrectly and that we need to look much more heavilyat their performance, an consistency in high school. There are now more thanone thousand four year, nonprofit colleges that offer test optionaladmissions decisions. You mentioned that it's something that had been onyour mind and been weighed for the last three years. Do you remember theinitial empetis that made you start even considering moving this way, OBloomfield yeah? I do. I just started getting sick of my stomach by rejectingstudents with a three point: five high school, GPA and low, or no SatrattScorse, because I knew they can do the work an in my gut. I knew that thestudent in front of me, you know that was getting as in you know, honorsbiology or taking you know, AP Computer Science Courses, but couldn't performon or standardized tes score. I knew they could do the work, it boo, O couch,and I knew they can. They could probably do the work at the vastmajority of colleges universitis in this country and yet because of ourcommission standards and having an sat or at requirement, I was not able toadmit those students, and I think that you know having had to do that, youknow hundreds of times over the years. Hiy finally got to the point where Isaid we have to look at this more deeply and to see if there's a way thatwe can help these students- and you know again, itall goes back to mission. I think the reason why my campus was receptive tothe idea when it was presented- and you know it wasn't easy to get it to makeit happen, but it was from day one.

Everybody was receptives because wehave an axcess mission and, and people feel verly strongly about that, andcertainly you know when you're talking about allowing you high performingstudents the ability to go to college, even though they struggle Wer,standardized testing. That really falls in line with an excess mission. Sothat's how how we were able to get it going, and but it really was thatsimple I mean you know it's. It breaks your heart when you know you're puttingthat position, and you know you have a talent to student in front of Vieu andyou just can't bring them to your canpus and so that's whate a'll started.You spoke of your access mission. missionally, test optional admissiondecisions absolutely make sense in terms of access in terms of ensuring adiversity amongst your class. Do you believe that it also makes sense, interms of overall in Roman Crowth, making sure that you are enrollingstudents deliberally, who will be able to persist and succeed a bloomfield?Well, that's what I'm banking on! So I'm hoping that this move for us.That's exactly what happened and I think we're seeing some interestingthings on the inemission side, with this cycle. Being that you know, thisis the first time that we're admitting students of non atest aptional basisfrom fall. Two Thousand and eighteen. You know a couple of things that wereseeing early on is. We seem on a whole of more engaged except this studentpool, so the students that were admitting seem to be more engaged. Wehave a higher attendance rate at open houses, campus tours and RSP rate forexcept the Student Day. That's coming up. We have earlier deposit than wetypically get, which you know. Obviously, from my perspective, wisfantastic, we even have you know: higherfastness ubmission rates, anhigher open rates on our emails to accept the students that in years pass.So I really think this has opened us up to a population that may we may nothave been serving before, but maybe even you know more engaged in ourtypical student student body and years past. So it's going to be reallyinteresting to see how plays out,...

...because, obviously you know with allthose things you would hope that your yield would increase. You get earlierto pause, to see your class earlier and if those things happen- and you knowthis could be a wild success, but it also could be, you know, were ddealingwith small samples this early in the process, so they could just be kind oftrend thees, an early tran, but nothing that really pens out. But you know I'mreally excited to see. You know what kind of happens from here I mean rightnow I mean you know. Typically, we receive about thirty six hundredfreshman applications a year, we're going to go well beyond that this year.An my goal was to increase applications by about ten percent because of testoptional, and that's just based off of talking with peers that have made themove and to see what a kind of the press and getting the word out hashappened to them. But we may be closer to twenty percent increasingapplications, and you know I don't think it's any surprise that, as ofright now, twenty percent of our ablicant pool has come in under anotest policy, meaning that they've on the application they've said thatthey're not going to submit their test cores and they don't want theconsidered. Almost half of the students have gone with the gave us the college.The option decide whether to go test or notn testind, what's better for them,so it's a tremendous amount of students that you know have kind of opten intothis program and I think that's really driving. You know kind of these earlyindicators, which I couldn't be more excited about. That's awesome. Have youhad to personally deal with any faculty pushback concerned your next incomingclass may be less acidemically qualified than prior years. YeahPushbak is definitely not the word I would use. I mean it took us a good two years to makethis happen. I mean these are conversations that go back a while interms of you know presenting this, but we did it the right way. You know wewent through faculty governance, I went to the Faculty Committee onrole andmanagement and that's how we presented to the full faculty. You know I had thesupport of you know my vice president,...

...whom I work with the President, theboard of Trustees, and we even you know we went out to students and ask them.You know what they think and what they w t they would have wanted as part oftheir edmission process, and I think that, coupled with having the data toback up the decision made it a relatively easy process- and there wassome- certainly some back and forth- and I totally understood because Ithink the faculty just like me- We're very used to having that secondacademic. You know indicator being Satar Act to kind of go along. You know,as kind of a checks and baloace or what the emission team was doing in terms ofbrenking student. I knowing that you know a lot of schools that we work with.Have you know, inconsistent or or challenging curriculums in terms of howwe evaluate them? So it was an interesting discussion, but it wasalways very collegial and you know I was really you know, pleasantlysurprised. You know when I was all said and done how enthusiastically thefaculty adopted hat the test. Optional Policy Awesome awesome any next TEPadvice for institutions who maybe listen to this and can empathize withyour kind of Pitin the stomach feeling feeling like you're, rejecting studentsthat would succeed here and looking for a different way how to best start thatconversation on their own campus. I mean, I think, the best way to start itis certainly just a dive into the data. First that mean look at the O. Look atwhat's driving your admission numbers look at what's driving yield, look atwhats, driving your attention and graduation figures and try to determinewhat way high school curriculum the type of high school GPA, standardized testingleadership, whatever those things are and see what what the weight is foreach and how it's really impacting a sudents ability to persist and ultimtlygraduate your institution, and I think, once you have that based on you'll beable to start Mak some conclusions fairly quickly about whether or notthis is something t that could possibly...

...work on your campus and then you can.Obviously you know dive really deeply into the into the Dataf the see ifsomething that can work for the population at large, or these areselect students that could certainly benefit from this. Then, as we justtalked about, I mean I think from day one. If this becomes some seriousconversation, you have to include the campus community and the decisionmaking process. The worst thing you could do is try to push this throughwithout getting bying from your faculty. BYING fomyou board oftrustes, you know and buying from the cabinet, certainly by from thepresident of the institution, because you know it's a big move and it couldreally change. You know the way the emission structure Aut an institutionwis going to be for several seven years, and it's going to take a lot of work toanalyze and assess the success and or lack of success for a program like thisand so there's going to be a lot of people involved, everybody frominstitutional research. You know through you know alumni, so I mean, Ithink the last thing you want to do is kind of keep it a secret while you'regoing through. You know the research and developmental phases for theprogram and then what I've seen and I think we handled this really well is wemade the decision well before the start of the reprovement cycle. I found itreally interesting that you know. After her, we made the decision a obviously Istarted. You know looking at google new seeds and seeing what other schools aredoing and the timing they were using, and I thought it was really interestingthat several schools, you know, announced these things kind of midcycleor well after the start of an edmission cycle, now every school's a little bitdifferent in terms of when theyr recruiting students. So obviously thatmakes sense I mean we know we essentially recruit on an eighteenmonth, calendar the middle of your junior year, early junior year,probably at the earliest, for the most part just to the type of institutionthat we are and other schools that are recruiting. You know eighth and ninthgraders, and so it's a little bit...

...different for them. But you know ifyou're ONA accalendar like us, I mean you just have to get ahead of that. Soyou have to be able to spead that word well ahead of when your recruitmentcycle starts, and I see a lot of schools that I think you know areSimblar to us that are doing that a little bit late. So I would just makesure that you're cognizant of the timing and winch in which you roll thisout just so it's certainly in line with your remission cycle and recruitantneeds, but I mean it's and I think, just from a personal standpoint, thisedmission cycle has been the most fun. I think I've ever had in my careerespest. In terms of you know, looking at the numbers seeing the trends youknow seeing the application increases seeing how excited the emission staffare to not have those. You know heartbreaking, rejections that wediscussed earlier and just you know they have this sense of pride of beingable to go out there to a high school and announce that you know. We've movedto test optional and- and I think it's getting a really good response fromschool counselors and certainly from you know our students and parents whoyou know always apply. You know we bring it up at an open house. We bringit up on a campus tour, it's one of you. You can see the smiling faces and thesense of release on many of our students an parents faces. So I meanthat's always great as well, but it's been a really fun ride. I really justhope at you know from a assessment standpoint: It pays off for theinstitution, but you know it's something that we were all behind andwe certainly thought it was worth. You know a Babis test, and I mean this ismore of a Bas test is a full roll out, but well assess it, and if it worksfantastic and we're going to roll with it and if it needs to be tweeked, wewill certainly, you know, Cross that bridge an we come to it. And if, ifit's total failure, I mean that's, you know that I don't think that's going tohappen, but it's certainly possible and then we would have to you know, shiftagain and that's kind of what we do in this idmissions world and we try tofind the best way to represent the institution and to help our studentsand we think for us right now. This is...

...the way to do it, love it such greatstuff at him, but what's the best place for listeners to connect with you ifthey have any folid questions, sure I mean the best way to reach me. I'mreally active on twitter at Adam Castro Edu is where you find me there. Ifanybody wants to email me directly, if they have any questions, they certainlycan at Adam Underscore Castro at baloom field. Dot, Edu awesome thanks, agains,so much for joining in today. At Am it's really my pleasure. Thanks forhaving me on, I really appreciate it attracting today's new post,traditional learners means adopting new enrolment strategies. helics educationsdata driven enterprise, wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquelyhelping colleges and universities thrive in this new education, landscapeand Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growthplaybook, with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solvetoday's most pressing enromant growth challenges download it today for freeat Helocks, Educationcom playbook you've been listening to enromentgrowth university from helics education to ensure that you never miss anepisode subscribe to the Showan Itune or your favorite podcast player. Thankyou so much for listening until next time.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (217)