LA GRANDE — Eastern Oregon University no longer requires standardized test results for financial aid.
The change the La Grande-based university implemented benefits incoming students and their families, especially those from marginalized communities. University scholarships and merit-based awards will be determined based on students’ grades, rather than ACT or SAT scores.
The school’s Admissions Director Genesis Meaderds said in a press release becoming test-blind makes EOU’s admissions process smoother and easier to navigate for prospective students.
“EOU has been test-optional for years for admissions,” Meaderds said. “The challenge was that we never were test-optional for scholarships and financial aid, so students were being admitted, and then if they didn’t have SATs or ACTs on file they were ineligible for many merit-based scholarships.”
Meaderds met with a committee of university staff for a year to discuss the change. The group reviewed studies that found evidence of racial and socioeconomic bias in standardized tests. Test anxiety or learning differences also can impact students’ ability to perform in this setting. The committee also found a student’s high school grade point average is actually the best indicator of college success.
“Getting this changed for financial aid is a big deal because now students can receive aid just based on their GPA from high school,” she said. “Students love that because many of them just don’t take those tests.”
Meaderds listed barriers to testing that the pandemic exacerbated. Many students had to travel out of state to a testing center, pay significant fees or acquire transportation in order to take an SAT or ACT placement test. Meaderds noted, though, that EOU began the process of going test-blind before the COVID-19 pandemic made standardized testing even more difficult to access.
“It wasn’t a COVID question, it was a student access question,” she said in the press release. “As an access to excellence institution, EOU now has a very simple process: they apply, send transcripts and get an admissions decision, then they automatically are eligible for aid.”
Admissions directors from every university in Oregon met last January to release a statement that none of the institutions would require SAT scores for admission. EOU has now stepped up that commitment, no longer requiring test scores even for the most selective scholarships.
“It’s been amazing to communicate directly with parents and students about the awards they’re immediately eligible for,” Meaderds said. “EOU is continuing what we always strive for: providing access to higher education. With such a large portion of our students coming from one or more underserved communities, this is just continuing to live out that aspect of our mission.”