La Salle’s test-free pilot program is a win for access and equity


Bianca Abbate, Former Editor-in-Chief

Dear Editor,

Today, I write to you as a proud La Salle alumna. With the news that La Salle University will no longer consider standardized tests for admission or merit scholarships comes the realization that the University is paving a path toward equity in education. The future looks bright. This decision means that La Salle will be following the lead of other universities who will now endeavor a more holistic application process. 

Receiving a merit scholarship to attend La Salle University opened many doors for me. Perhaps the greatest door was having graduated college debt-free. While the experience seems distant, I think back to how I earned that scholarship in the first place. I recall my final days in high school and the anxiety of applying to college. I remember thinking that my grades and involvement would not be good enough if my SAT score could not reach a certain threshold. Even as a 17-year-old kid, I knew that I had more to offer a school than the number I could achieve on a standardized test, but I also knew that I had to surrender to this necessary hurdle for college admissions.   

Ultimately, I performed well on the SAT. However, I assure you that my score had little to do with my aptitude and everything to do with the fact that I had the means to prepare for the test. I had the time to study and the money for tutoring. How many college applicants can say the same? The truth is that these standardized tests are not so standard after all. Like many other standardized tests, the SAT favors the rich and the white. The College Board’s own data reveals that wealthier, Caucasion and Asian Americans who come from more educated families tend to perform far better on the test. In a 2021 study of college admission tests, author Mark Kantrowitz presents three key findings: that male students are 42% more likely to have combined SAT test scores in the 1400 to 1600 range than female students, that white students are three times more likely than Black or African-American students and twice as likely as Hispanic or Latino students to have SAT test scores of 1400 to 1600, and that students with family income of $100,000 or more are more than twice as likely as students with a family income under $50,000 to have SAT test scores of 1400 to 1600. If these shameful results raise not even an eyebrow for those in education, what can we say about the merit of our education system?

Figure 1. Students from higher-income families tend to achieve higher SAT scores

Source. Mark Kantrowitz, Forbes

It would seem natural for a university to move away from these antiquated metrics for admission. Nonetheless, the news of this pilot program has been met with some criticism. In one LinkedIn post announcing the program, some rejoiced and others lamented, arguing that La Salle’s test-free policies would not prepare students for the “real world” and that it would lower the University’s standards. I cannot blame people for believing that this test might be a good measure of college preparedness and intelligence. After all, this concept has been shoved down our throats for years. Yet, I refuse to believe that La Salle is lowering its standards in this decision. Rather, La Salle is raising its standards for access to higher education. The University will not submit to the standards invented by the College Board to determine who will excel in their schools, an occasion to be celebrated.

I applaud La Salle’s decision to move past these arbitrary markers of college preparedness. Today, I am in a similar position as my 17-year-old self. I am now applying for law school and preparing to take the LSAT for the third time next week. Despite having the skills, the grades and the resume that I believe would make me a successful lawyer, I am subjected to yet another inequitable test which does not favor me as a first-generation student or a full-time employee. Even worse, this time, the test is much more costly and time-consuming, and the stakes are higher. Of course, the $200 test registration fees and thousands of dollars in decent test prep do not include the additional means it will take to submit one’s application. It saddens me to know that to even begin the pursuit of advanced education requires a hefty down payment. For many, the dream of becoming a doctor or lawyer will not be realized, not because they lack the intelligence or the tenacity, but because they lack the funds. The system must change.

Stellar test scores and even great grades can only get one so far in life. The true mark of a Lasallian is his or her character and commitment to community. These traits, not numbers, are what open doors for us and allow us to succeed in the professional world. I say that, as it does with each student it admits, La Salle took a chance on me, and I like to think that it will see a return on its investment. It is my hope as an alumna that La Salle will continue to take chances on students who will enrich the University with their unique perspectives. With La Salle’s new policy, the admissions team will find something special in young people that they may have otherwise overlooked. With the right tools and a nurturing environment, these students will undoubtedly prove the admissions team right in their decision. That’s a win for La Salle.

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