Some Louisiana universities consider, implement changes to admissions policy due to COVID-19

Some Louisiana universities consider, implement changes to admissions policy due to COVID-19

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Those who work in higher education says COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact.

"Probably the hardest admissions year of my life, as you can imagine, both for the students that are coming in this year and also for the students that will be applying to colleges next year. It has thrown every plan that people had out of the window," said Tulane University's Vice President of Enrollment Management & Dean of Admission Satyajit Dattagupta.

Many students are still waiting to take or re-take standardized tests. It's a requirement for a number of Louisiana's universities but that could change. It already has at Tulane.

"It'll be the first time Tulane has been test optional," Dattagupta said.

After much discussion, administrators decided they'll waive standardized testing requirements for high school juniors applying to Tulane. Dattagupta says they made the call largely due to widespread cancellation of SAT's and ACT's and existing uncertainty regarding rescheduling.

"Instead of waiting and seeing what it would look like, we made a more proactive decision. It's a big decision because it's a part of the admissions process and it is standardize way of measuring students academic success, in some ways, but we decided to take this step, literally, just to help students take a little bit of the stress off," explained Dattagupta.

Without test scores, Dattagupta says they'll put more weight on students' whole high school experience.

"I feel confident in our ability to gauge the students ability to succeed at Tulane with their transcript and the courses they take and getting to know the student," he said.

Like Tulane, leaders with Loyola University acknowledge the impact the virus could have on admissions.

"The ripple affect is just unbelievable with the disruption in test taking. Students count on those tests so, just in terms of thinking a little outside the box of what it means to suspend the requirement for test scores for Loyola for the fall of 2021," said Loyola Senior Vice President Sarah Kelly.

Kelley says administrators would be "test score blind", which means admissions wouldn't even give students the option of providing one. Yet, so far, she says she's not sure it's right for Loyola.

"Does that have unintended consequences for Louisianans?" Kelly questioned.

Kelly says 40-percent of their students are Louisiana residents, many of whom rely on TOPS.

“We’re worried about how it affects people at home because in order to get TOPS, you have to have test scores,” said Kelly. “We don’t want Louisiana students to think, they don’t take test scores, I won’t be able to use my TOPS scholarship.”

Governor Edwards signed an executive order April 2 relaxing requirements for the Fall 2020 semester. Though ACT or SAT scores are still required, students won't be considered until June. That's students' next scheduled opportunity to take the test, with another set for September.

Other universities are working to increase the availability of financial aid on their own. University of Holy Cross President Stanton McNeely says they're trying to tap into the federal CARES Act.

They already offer alternatives to standardized test score requirements.

"We have placement test options and we're advising students who don't even have that option to go into certain portions that don't require placement tests," explained McNeely.

At Tulane, all students will be considered for merit-based scholarships.

"Their financial aid will not be altered just because they didn't submit a test," Dattagupta said.

A University of Louisiana System spokesperson says the Board of Regents is set to discuss possible changes to minimum admission standards for Fall 2020, next week. Board of Regent Spokesperson Meg Sunstrom tells FOX 8, as it stands now, standardized tests are not required for admission into a state university. There are alternative placement tests available.

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