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Columbia Univ. Ditches Standardized Test Scores Over 'Equity' Concerns

University officials believe that testing scores perpetuate racism in education

Columbia University has become the first Ivy League college in the country to stop requiring SAT or ACT scores as a condition of undergraduate admissions, cementing its pandemic-era policy of accepting candidates based on a “holistic” and “contextual” application process driven by the background of applicants.

“The holistic and contextual application review process for Columbia College and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science is rooted in the belief that students are dynamic, multi-faceted individuals who cannot be defined by any single factor,” the university said in a statement.

Columbia is one of many universities around the country ditching SAT and ACT scores as critics state testing favors white and Asian-American students, according to a report from the New York Times.

Standardized testing opponents claim using test scores as a basis for college admission is “a proxy for privilege” while also asserting that students who are able to access tutors and test prep services are “gaming the system,” the Times reported.

A 2021 press release from Columbia vows to prioritize “equity in education” and cites controversial author Ibram X. Kendi explaining the speculative belief that testing policies perpetuate racist ideas and policies in education.

“Our review is purposeful and nuanced — respecting varied backgrounds, voices and experiences — in order to best determine an applicant’s suitability for admission and ability to thrive in our curriculum and our community, and to advance access to our educational opportunities,” Columbia added. “We have designed our application to afford the greatest possible opportunity and flexibility for students to represent themselves fully and showcase their academic talents, interests and goals. Standardized testing is not a required component of our application.”

University officials say that for students who choose to submit SAT or ACT scores, the testing policies remain the same. But, applicants who do not submit test scores will not be disadvantaged.

Columbia says it will evaluate applications with an “individualized application review process that considers the unique combination of circumstances shaping each applicant’s journey.”

Test-optional admissions standards surged in popularity prior to the pandemic, as proponents of the policy believe black, Hispanic, and immigrant students are disadvantaged by them, NBC News reported. But, concerns over safety during the pandemic resulted in numerous schools abandoning testing requirements.

Now, a number of schools are considering making the policy permanent.

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