DeKALB – Northern Illinois University is the first college in Illinois to eliminate standardized test scores in general admission and merit scholarship decisions, a step which university administrators say will make college more accessible to all students.
NIU's announcement Thursday new "test-blind" policy will begin with students applying for Fall 2021 courses, according to a news release, meaning that any high school graduate who applies to NIU with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher will be guaranteed admission regardless of their SAT or ACT scores.
"This new policy comes from our deep commitment to making a college education both accessible and equitable for a broad and diverse student population," said NIU President Lisa Freeman in the news release. "It reflects our efforts campus-wide to eliminate unnecessary and biased barriers throughout a student's educational path."
The announcement comes as NIU enters into the spring 2020 semester after closing out the first semester of its lowest fall enrollment in 50 years.
Per the new policy, all freshman applicants will also automatically be considered for NIU Merit Scholarships based on their GPA, which also includes the University Honors Program, which used to require students to submit standardized test scores.
National higher education students and data collected by NIU show a student's high school GPA is a better indicator of future academic success than performance on an ACT or SAT, the release states.
"Once we know a high school student's GPA, one standardized test score is irrelevant," said NIU Executive Vice President and Provost Beth Ingram in the release.
For student applicants with a high school GPA of 3.0 or below, they'll still be considered for NIU based on what university administrators say is a "holistic review" of their application, which will consider other facts such as academic preparation and performance, motivation, resilience and resourcefulness.
"This now allows us, much earlier in the process, to really get to know students on a more personal level," said Sol Jensen, vice president for enrollment manager, marketing and communications.
Removing standardized test scores from a college application will empower disadvantaged students without the means or resources to prepare for tests, administrators said, since standardized test scores more often reflect a student's socioeconomic background than their academic abilities.
Costs associated with the SAT and ACT are often more inaccessible for minority or low-income students, the release states, and students with disabilities.