Other measures are a better gauge of ability and help diversity.
The College Board amended its policy on reporting SAT scores this month in an effort to ease stress on student test takers. Starting with the class of 2010, students who take the entrance examination multiple times will be able to control which of their scores admissions officers see. Even before then, though, students who want to attend Wake Forest University won't have to worry quite so much about the exam that most universities rely on so heavily.
Last month, Wake Forest dropped the SAT and ACT as entrance requirements, becoming the only Top 30 national university with a test-optional policy. This step away from standardized tests will help us and other institutions of higher education move closer to the goals of greater educational quality and opportunity.
Our decision to reevaluate our admissions policy grew out of a close look at the state of higher education and some long, hard thinking about the kind of university we want Wake Forest to be. For several years, a growing body of research has made clear that America's top colleges and universities are doing a poor job of helping some young people realize a critical part of the American dream: that anyone, no matter where he or she begins in life, has the chance to rise to the top.
Students from the top quarter of the socioeconomic hierarchy are 25 times more likely to attend a "top tier" college than students from the bottom quarter. In 1970, only 6 percent of students from the lowest-income families earned a bachelor's degree by age 24. More than 30 years later, the figure was still only 6 percent.
Research has indicated that one of the major reasons equal opportunity is lacking is universities' reliance on standardized tests, such as the SAT. Analyses show clearly that performance on the SAT is closely correlated with family income. Two scholars recently found that top colleges and universities could increase the enrollment of low-income students simply by giving greater weight to admissions criteria other than standardized tests.