Towson decides to remain permanently test-optional for admissions

By: Caitlyn Freeman, Editor in Chief 

In an effort to increase student diversity, Towson University has decided to remain test-optional for admissions permanently. 

The decision comes after the University System of Maryland voted in June 2022 to remove the language requiring its 12 member institutions to ask applicants for SAT or ACT scores and let each school choose whether or not to require scores.

Towson, which has been test-optional since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, notified the University System of its decision this semester and updated its 2023-24 catalog with the test-optional policy, Amy Moffatt, assistant vice president of Admissions said.

A spokesperson for the University System said in an email that institutions must notify the System, but no prior approval is required.

Moffatt said the university is keeping track of the early data on how the decision impacts the recruitment and retention of students.

“We have already seen a shift in our demographics here at TU, and I believe that removing the test score from the admissions process has allowed more students of all backgrounds (specifically underrepresented) to pursue a college education based on their academic performance in high school and not by meeting a standardized test score,” Moffatt said in an email. 

Echoing this, Boyd Bradshaw, Towson’s vice president of Enrollment Management, said in an interview that the decision to go test-optional has allowed the university to attract students who were previously not being reached. 

“We decided for the type of student that we want to enroll here, students [Grade Point Averages] do make a difference,” he said. “I mean, we find that there are positive factors for student success. Now if a student wants to submit a test score, we’ll use it, and it will help the student, but it won’t hurt the student in regards to the way we review the admission criteria.” 

Since becoming test-optional, Moffatt said only a small percentage of applicants had provided test scores, with only 16% providing them in Fall 2023. Additionally, as stated on the admissions webpage, test scores do not impact scholarship awards.

In terms of student demographics, Towson is on track to become a majority-minority institution, with approximately 57% of the incoming fall 2022 class identifying as a racial or ethnic minority. Additionally, 2020-2021, 29% of undergraduate students received Pell grants, according to data from the Institute of Education Sciences

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Some test-optional advocates argue that testing requirements systematically harm students of color and low-income students by making college inaccessible to them. 

Bob Schaeffer, the Public Education Director of FairTest, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, said Towson’s decision matches national trends. 1,800 colleges and universities no longer require scores for admissions, according to an October 2022 U.S. News and World Report article

Schaeffer supports Towson’s decision as the drop testing requirements encourage students from various racial, socioeconomic and academic backgrounds to apply. 

“So particularly for public universities, it helps to fulfill their mission of serving the people of their state in 21st century America, which is increasingly diverse, so it will help college campuses public college campuses look more like the states which fund them,” he said.  

The test providers themselves continue to advocate for the effectiveness of the scores in predicting college success and helping a student’s application stand out. 

Priscilla Rodriguez, senior vice president of College Readiness Assessments for College Board, the provider of the SAT, said in a statement that they support the decision to be test-optional. Further, she said their research shows that students want the option. 

“That is because the SAT allows students—regardless of where they go to high school—to be seen by colleges and scholarship providers.”

Similarly, Chief Operating Officer of ACT, Janet Godwin, said in a statement that their goal is to increase educational opportunities through their test.

“ACT data helps students tell institutions the whole story of who they are – what courses they should be placed in, what financial aid they should receive, and what academic supports they will need to succeed and complete college.”

In addition to Towson, Salisbury University and the University of Maryland Global Campus have formally adopted test-optional admissions policies. Other institutions within the University System are operating under a test-optional model but have yet to report their permanent decision, the spokesperson said. An official count is expected this summer. 

In terms of other enrollment initiatives, the university recently joined American Talent Initiative, an alliance that aims to increase the enrollment of low-income students nationwide. Towson joined the Common Application in 2022 and saw a record 19,589 applications for Fall 2023, Moffatt said.

“All these efforts along with our test-optional policy have increased applications from all demographics… which in return has increased enrollment,” she said.


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