To the Editor:
It is correct that a high ACT or SAT can and does set students apart (“How the ACT and SAT Help Disadvantaged Students Get Into College,” The Chronicle, June 20). It facilitates enrollment both nationally and at top-tier schools. In most cases it is accompanied by a full ride and serves as a confidence builder. Even though standardized test scores may provide much-needed financial assistance to low-income students, their use results in merit-based support across all socioeconomic groups and favors students from higher income families. The number of low-income minority students who score high on either the ACT or SAT is small, resulting in a small number admitted to not only upper-tier schools but college in general.
Standardized test score are directly affected by both race and class. Historically, white students have scored higher on standardized tests than minority students. Even when adjusting for socioeconomic status, the scoring gap persists. For instance, minorities of high socioeconomic status score higher than low socioeconomic-status minorities but significantly lower than low socioeconomic-status whites. This is due to multiple variables in the K-12 educational system. Many minority students attend schools that are under resourced, have high student-to-teacher ratios, have no AP courses, and are lacking in tutoring and counseling services. This places them at a distinct disadvantage and generates a small pool of minority students with high ACT or SAT scores.
I support the efforts of the University of Chicago in making the ACT and SAT optional and moving to a more holistic admissions process that takes into account race, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, gender, ableism, gender identity, geographical location, and first-generation status. Awareness, implementation, and adherence to the current Supreme Court ruling in Fisher vs University of Texas at Austin will mitigate many of the effects of implicit bias on the admission process. Admissions committee members must also be trained in the utilization of the holistic admissions process. If we do not bring about a dramatic shift in our admissions process, our efforts to diversify and enhance the educational process in higher education will fall way short.
Billy R. Thomas
Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion
Professor, Pediatrics Department
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences