The Corner


A More Accessible ACT and SAT

(File photo: Mike Segar/Reuters)

“Few low-income youth ‘decide’ against college,” writes Brookings’ Susan Dynarski. “Rather, they miss a key deadline, or incorrectly fill out a form, or fail to take a required class, and thereby fall off the path to college.”

So how can we ease the way? For a good starting point, Dynarski directs our attention to the administration of the SAT and ACT, tests which most selective colleges and universities require for admission. Right now, they are generally conducted outside of school hours and in limited locations, and they come with registration fees — all of which limit their accessibility to disadvantaged students. Recognizing the problem, Dynarski explains, some dozen states have started giving the SAT or ACT at school, during school hours, and for free. In most cases, the test stood in for another standardized test that the high schoolers would have had to take anyway.

The plan seems to be working. For one, it raised the rate of test-taking from 35 percent among low-income students in Michigan to almost 99 percent. In addition, according to a study by Joshua Hyman, an assistant professor at the University of Connecticut, the test also uncovered low-income students who might have otherwise not applied to college: about 480 for every 1,000 who had taken the test before 2007 and had scored well. Researchers have shown the same pattern in other states experimenting with the universal SAT or ACT, Dynarski notes, including Colorado, Illinois, and Maine.

Given the potential benefits of Dynarski’s proposal, and its impressively low cost, states around the country would be foolish not to pursue it, and to consider universal screening programs designed to identify gifted and talented [children] who aren’t lucky enough to have pushy parents.

Editor’s Note: This post has been amended since its original publication.

Reihan Salam is president of the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

O’Rourke’s America

With apologies to Margaret Atwood and a thousand other dystopian novelists, we do not have to theorize about what an American police state would look like, because we know what it looks like: the airport, that familiar totalitarian environment where Americans are disarmed, stripped of their privacy, divested of ... Read More
White House

More Evidence the Guardrails Are Gone

At the end of last month, just as the news of the Ukraine scandal started dominating the news cycle, I argued that we're seeing evidence that the guardrails that staff had placed around Donald Trump's worst instincts were in the process of breaking down. When Trump's staff was at its best, it was possible to draw ... Read More

Is America Becoming Sinicized?

A little over 40 years ago, Chinese Communist strongman and reformer Deng Xiaoping began 15 years of sweeping economic reforms. They were designed to end the disastrous, even murderous planned economy of Mao Zedong, who died in 1976. The results of Deng’s revolution astonished the world. In four decades, ... Read More

Kurdish, Syrian, and Turkish Ironies

Outrage met Donald Trump’s supposedly rash decision to pull back U.S. troops from possible confrontational zones between our Kurdish friends in Syria and Recep Erdogan’s expeditionary forces. Turkey claims that it will punish the Syrian Kurds for a variety of supposed provocations, including aiding and ... Read More