The False Hope Created by Test-Optional Admissions Policies

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dr. Jerry Lucido, Professor and Executive Director at the Center for Enrollment Research Policy and Practice at the University of Southern California joined the podcast to talk about the potential false hope created by this year’s mass move to test-optional admissions policies. 

First I would say that institutions implementingtest optional, whether it's newly implemented or whether they've been test option for sometime, to do rigorous research about who your policy helps and who it hurts. You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional developmentpodcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university.Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources,you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome backto enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect ETU podcast network.I'm Eric Olson with Helix Education and we're here today with Dr Jerry Lucido,professor and executive director at the center for Enrollment Research, policy and practice atthe University of Southern California. Jerry, welcome to the show. Thank you, Eric. Really excited to have you here and talk with you today aboutthe potential false hope created by our test...

...optional admissions policies. Before we diginto that conversation, can you give the listeners a little background on both USCand your role there? Sure I'm very pleased that the the university has seemedfit to create a research center that examines enrollment policy and practice around the nationand around the world. Frankly, and pleased to be the first director ofthat center. It came to that, to that role, honestly, byrunning admissions and enrollment organizations at the University of Arizona, at the University ofNorth Carolina Chapel Hill and here at USC before I went to the faculty,and in doing that work I realized that we needed a national center to examinehow all of these policies and practices impact that the nation and impact that ourhopes for the educational futures of our children. So that's what we're up to.I love that you and your team exists and are doing the work thatyou're doing. I'm sure this isn't the perfectly clean experiment that your team wouldhave liked. The boil, boy, do we test out a lot ofdifferent enrollment practices last year, Jerry,...

...maybe to kick off that conversation,how did hire eds test optional admission policies affect specifically our weight lists this year? Well, you're right, it was an extraordinary year and we learned alot of things. And to go directly to your question about the weight listand about high ds test optional policies quite directly the the rich gum. Theythe elite institutions, those who have great name recognition and selectivity, were ableto admit more students because their admission appolican pools swelled due to the hope createdby test optional admissions on the parts of many students from as possible before ifif they were concerned about their test scores. So they had thousands more, insome cases, applications. As a result, they admitted more students,in part to head their own bets relative to the pandemic, and they alsowaitlisted more students for similar reasons. So what we saw was that weightless gotbigger, but they got actually used less by the elites because their yields wereunexpectedly high, and I'm not sure they...

...should have been unexpectedly high, butthey were, and most institutions with market differentiation actually made their targets. Itwas those who didn't have that kind of selectivity in name referentiation that benefited fromweight listed students and that struggled a little bit for their enrollments. You brieflymentioned the difference between selective and less selective institutions. How about on the studentside? Are there certain groups of students that we're seeing more affected by theseweightless policies than others? Yes, it appears. Will begin with students ofcolor. Students with color were added weightless in greater numbers as a percentage.So there was a national study that showed that about twenty percent of students makingcollege decisions over all this year we're on weightless. That's a pretty high number. Twenty percent, or pretty high percentage. Excuse me, but twenty nine percentof those were or so called BIPOC, you know, black indigenous people ofcolor. So of that group twenty nine percent were on weightless. Sothis proportionally affect that students of color.

It also was variously successful for lowincome students. There are some institutions who felt they could afford low income studentsand took more. They were there were more in their pools. But somefolks who do not have the benefit of being need blind or having large endowmentsas struggled with admitting more students of color and was very concerned about the bottomline. So those students also were disproportionally disadvantage not just by weightless but bycovid in general, Jerry, could test optional admission policies be providing some notonly hope but potentially false hope for some students that ends up actually distracting ordelaying their higher education next step will certainly it could provide false hope. There'sno doubt about that. The irony of test option with mission is that admissiondecisions are less transparient. What when you can look at a website it's say, well, we've admitted you know, fifty percent of our students within thisrange. You suddenly have a sense of...

...your competitiveness. And if I'm belowthat, that middle fifty percent, well maybe maybe that's a red school forme, or it certainly, I read school for me, and that's alittle bit more transparent. Without that, test optional becomes more of a translucentat best situation. You know, depending upon the selectivity of a student,what are they actually looking at? Is it all going to be grade?Is it going to be my curriculum? Is it could be my characters?What does it mean? An additional way that test optional provides a false hopeis whether the institutions are committed to taking more students, are taking taking chanceson students who might have had somewhat lower scores in the past or if theyhave different ways of carrying out their policy. These for those who submit test scorescompared to those who do nuts to test scores, in other words,if those aren't equitable. So it becomes the larger game that students need evenincreasingly more sophistication to play. I should suit my scores, I shouldn't,and this is a question students and families...

...are asking themselves all the time.You know, should I submit my scores? At what point should I submit myscores? You know, will I be disadvantaged by not submitting my scores? And so I think there's some real lessons. They're about running test optionalin a fair and equitable way. Yeah, this is the becoming a complex ethicalconflict. Do you see this as a larger conflict for those highly selectiveschools who may be merely temporarily offering test optional emissions during the pandemic, thenfor other institutions who may have already been leading this way, who may evennot have seen their application rates jump as much with this change last year?Well, I'm not sure that test optional is a conflict for selective schools ifthey're committed to doing test optional in a way that that that's us to theinstitutions. I think the real issue is how test optional was implemented. Youknow, do we have fair and equitable processes for those who submit scores theseof you, those who do not?...

How rigorous are we in doing that? And another issue to speak about this is should, instead of being testoptions, should we be test blind? I mean, are we using testsin some ways, again to differentiate an admission? Are we using test todifferentiate and scholarships or in merit scholarships? And how do we communicate with studentsin this respect? So the conflict is often in how test optional is implemented. And, frankly, getting back to your original question about selective schools,some of these schools might want to go back to testing, but if key, key competitors do not, they're going to face great backlash about. Well, if x school doesn't require me to send a test, why do youyou know? And that would go right up to the Ivy League. Jerry, wonderful plots the finally, can you leave us with any next steps advicefor institutions struggling with this and and seem us come back in the research.They're considering keeping their test admission policies moving...

...forward. What do they look outfor? Be Aware of yeah, you bet, and I think I've alreadyalluded to some of these, but I do have a number of next stepsthat world I think, be really worthy of consideration. First, I wouldsay that institutions implementing test optional, whether it's newly implemented or whether they've beentest option for some times, do rigorous research about who your policy helps andwho it hurts. You know, be in the game, in other words, long enough to determine the success of students who were admitted without tests andthose were admitting using test scores. And how are they going, and canyou continue to go on this path and what's it actually producing for you?I would say another lesson is to be as transparent as possible, to prospecta students about what you are looking for for admission, for scholarships and forhow you will implement I think it's also worthy of a look at being testtest blind entirely, if your research supports it. I would say finally,seek fairness and equity in your decisions throughout...

...your test optional admission program don't haveone standard for testers and another for nutsubmitters, and by that I mean they rigorousin your approach to equity, you know, make sure you understand whothis is impacting. Who is it that impacting? What are ultimate goals inour mission here, and how do we make sure that that we're fair inthat we're using similar criteria and everyone gets appropriate reads and equitable, meaning thatyou know that those who have less advantage, you know, are looked at inways that help them bring forward and help your mission officers understand they're greatqualities in the same way that you can for those who are who cup frommore advanced schools, who have better counseling and better curriculum and all the rest. Cherry, thanks so much for your time today. What's the best placefor listeners to reach out to you or your team at? They have mefollow up questions? Sure? Well, I'm happy to receive an email atmy name at USC, so my first initial and last name, so jLu see ideo at USC DOT Edu.

That's an easy way. But tofollow up with what our center is doing, and we're doing research on the impactof covid post secondary enrollment and the like. Just go to our websiteand if you Google simply the letters, see er PP, center for EnrollmentResearch, policy and practice. Just Google surp, sear PP and you cansee all of what we do in sign up for our newsletter, which currentlyserves about tenzero in roll leaders around the country. Awesome, Jerry. Thanksso much for joining us today. Yet my pleasure. Eric. Attracting today'snew post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven,enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in thisnew education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollmentgrowth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's mostpressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today for...

...free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook.You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that younever miss an episode, subscribe to the show in Itunes or your favorite podcastplayer. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (231)