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Hofstra makes SAT, ACT optional starting in 2015

Hempstead's Hofstra University, seen on April 16, 2014,

Hempstead's Hofstra University, seen on April 16, 2014, got second place for its success in placing graduates in what LinkedIn called "desirable media jobs," according to a report the website issued on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2014. Credit: Chuck Fadely

Hofstra University is joining the growing ranks of campuses across the country that are making the SAT and ACT optional rather than requiring students to submit scores from those admissions tests when they apply.

Hofstra representatives said the new policy, announced this week, will take effect with all undergraduates entering in fall 2015, except international and home-schooled students. Officials added that they will continue focusing on students' high school academic records, as they have in the past, in making admissions decisions.

"What I always say is that past performance is the most important predictor of future performance," said Herman Berliner, the university's provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

Berliner, in an interview yesterday, said Hofstra's decision to adopt a "test optional" approach was reached after several years of discussion among admissions officers, faculty leaders and other campus officials. He added that the decision was made from "a position of strength," because the campus is meeting its enrollment targets.

In recent years, more than 800 of 2,870 institutions nationwide that grant four-year degrees have de-emphasized the use of standardized test scores in making admissions decisions, according to FairTest, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Among the private four-year schools that have adopted the test-optional approach are Wesleyan University in Connecticut, Wake Forest University in North Carolina and College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts.

Opponents of standardized college admissions tests described Hofstra's action as a significant boost to their movement, especially because the Hempstead school is the largest on Long Island to go that route so far. Hofstra enrolls 6,800 undergraduate students and 3,000 graduate students and offers professional training in law, medicine, engineering and other fields.

"It's a large, private university in a major metropolitan area," said Robert Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest. "It enlarges the list of campuses where students know they will not be treated as just a test score."

Dowling College in Oakdale and Briarcliffe College in Bethpage already follow test-optional policies, according to FairTest.

Representatives of Stony Brook University and LIU Post in Brookville said the question of whether to continue requiring the SAT and ACT has been discussed, but school officials have reached no decision. Officials at both take a multidimensional view of applicants by looking at high school transcripts and other evidence of achievement, those officials added.

Supporters of the optional approach say standardized test scores are not as strong a predictor of college success as high school grade-point averages. They also contend that overemphasis on such test scores gives an advantage to students from affluent families who can afford expensive test-prep programs.

Sponsors of the SAT and ACT respond that grade-point averages, while important, aren't always enough to present a well-rounded picture of a student's capabilities, especially if the student has not taken high school courses that are academically rigorous.

"As a former dean of admission, I would always want to make a decision on whether a student would be successful in college based on as much information as possible," said Paul Weeks, vice president for customer engagement at ACT in Iowa City, Iowa. "Any one measure might not capture that."

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