Pomona College to temporarily suspend standardized testing requirements

a hand with a pencil on a scantron sheet
Pomona College’s faculty voted to make standardized testing temporarily optional for the next admissions cycle. (Biologycorner/Flickr)

Pomona College faculty voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to suspend the school’s requirement that applicants provide standardized test results to be considered for admission, the latest adjustment made in response to disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

At a faculty meeting over Zoom, Dean of Admissions Seth Allen stressed the need for the suspension in light of the many changes COVID-19 has prompted for standardized test scheduling. 

“This is the right thing to do to calm a lot of anxiety around juniors who can’t visit colleges … they’re stressing about this on top of moving to online classes,” Allen said.

In recent weeks, concerns about the pandemic have brought major cancellations and postponements of national SAT and ACT testing dates, disrupting many students’ hopes to line up scores before submitting applications this fall.

Allen also said the temporary suspension will help ensure equity.

“Those who probably can be accommodated will be those who can travel to different exam sites,” Allen said. “For some of our most vulnerable student populations, they’re not going to be able to have access to this.”

The admissions and financial aid office began talking about suspending the requirement two weeks ago, according to Allen. Since then, the office has been overwhelmed with queries from prospective applicants who fear changes to national testing may impact their admission.

Under the resolution, the suspension will last for a year, at which point the requirement would be reinstated. 

But Allen said the suspension would give the admissions office and office of financial aid the chance to evaluate whether to drop the testing requirement permanently.

“This provides … the opportunity … to take up the question of how helpful is standardized testing … and have a conversation on whether this should remain a criteria for us,” Allen said.

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Scripps College permanently nixed its standardized testing requirement earlier in March. Pitzer College has been test-optional since 2003.

Under the temporary Pomona policy, prospective applicants will still be able to submit test scores for consideration. The decision comes the same day the University of California system suspended testing requirements and eased other admissions rules.

At the same meeting, college faculty also voted to create half credit “second semester” courses for students who saw their study abroad and community engagement programs cancelled and seniors who do not have enough credit to graduate. There are currently 14 seniors in this situation, according to registrar Elisa Alban.

Under the resolution, faculty members will decide to offer such classes by Thursday and the deadline to add the courses will be April 9. 

Most of these courses would take the form of electives, overlays, and independent studies open to Pomona students only. The courses would all be graded on a pass/no credit basis.

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