MIT bucks liberal university consensus, reinstates standardized testing requirements

Kendall Tietz, DCNF

UPDATE: This article has been updated to include comment from MIT in response to its standardized testing requirement reinstatement. 

One of the nation’s leading universities has opted to reinstate standardized testing for all future admissions cycles, signaling a break with the narrative of many liberal universities that claim the requirement is racially discriminative.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will require students to take the SAT or ACT for its 2022-2023 admissions cycle “to build a diverse and talented MIT,” Stu Schmill, the university’s dean of admissions and student financial services said in a statement posted to MIT Admissions.

In July 2020, MIT decided to suspend its standardized testing requirement as part of an “ethical obligation” related to COVID-19, but did not specifically cite racial bias implications.

“Our research shows standardized tests help us better assess the academic preparedness of all applicants, and also help us identify socioeconomically disadvantaged students who lack access to advanced coursework or other enrichment opportunities that would otherwise demonstrate their readiness for MIT,” the statement said. “We believe a requirement is more equitable and transparent than a test-optional policy.”

Schmill cited the university’s mission statement which aims “to recruit, select, and enroll a diverse and talented group of students who are a good match for MIT’s unique education and culture,” according to his announcement.

Schmill said the ACT and SAT, specifically students’ math scores, help admissions officers “accurately predict student academic success at MIT” and explained that “some standardized exams besides the SAT/ACT can help us evaluate readiness, but access to these other exams is generally more socioeconomically restricted⁠ relative to the SAT/ACT.”

Opponents of standardized testing have criticized the ACT and SAT admissions requirements as a racially discriminatory and socioeconomically biased practice, which contributes to inequalities in education.

On May 26, 2020, the University of California’s (UC) Board of Regents voted to discontinue using ACT and SAT testing requirements as part of its college admissions process.

The UC Academic Senate recommended loosening the SAT and ACT requirements in order to “address diversity and compensate for inequality,” according to a February 2020 report.

Tests can also be used “as a tool” to “improve the diversity” of its undergraduate population, according to Schmill’s announcement.

He said that not having ACT and SAT scores to consider “tends to raise socioeconomic barriers to demonstrating readiness for our education” and that by having these measurements MIT can “identify academically prepared, socioeconomically disadvantaged students who could not otherwise demonstrate readiness⁠” because of “educational inequalities” like attending schools that don’t offer advanced coursework, an inability to afford “expensive enrichment opportunities” or overburdened teachers who can’t be expected to write lengthy letters of recommendation.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, universities across the U.S. have been scrapping testing requirements. In 2018, the University of Chicago became the first top-10 research school to eliminate the ACT and SAT from its admissions process.

In 2018, Brown University became the last Ivy League school to drop the ACT or SAT essay requirement, which has long been seen as an application barrier to low-income students because of the essay’s additional fee.

MIT pointed the Daily Caller News Foundation to its statement from Schmill posted to the university’s admissions blog.

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