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Monday, September 25, 2017
West Virginia Makes SAT Mandatory
This week, West Virginia's Department of Education announced that it would require all high schools to administer the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) as the standard college entrance exam. Although it is not completely clear how and why this is being implemented, it will be a welcome move for students of moderate means.

The fee for taking the SAT is about $52, but, like shopping for a new car, figuring out the costs of various add-ons is confusing. The College Board, which administers the test, has separate fees for each SAT subject exam, late registration, additional copies of scores, registration by telephone, and so on. Students from low-income families can apply for a fee waiver, which is granted based upon household size and income. Fee waivers aren't available to undocumented students, and the application itself may be off-putting to many parents who are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with the college application process.

In West Virginia, the test will now be mandatory and administered at no cost to all high school juniors. They will be able to take it in their own classrooms. (The SAT is otherwise offered at independent testing centers, usually on the weekends). Exceptions will be granted only to students with cognitive disabilities. Students taking the exam will be able to send it to up to four different colleges, free of charge.

For decades, the SAT has been the standard-bearer in college admissions assessments. Most colleges require it for admission. Since high school educational environments vary wildly across the U.S., the original purpose of the SAT was to level the playing field, allowing colleges an objective metric to evaluate. But critics have found increasingly strong data suggesting that the SAT skews mostly along socioeconomic lines. Preparation workshops can be prohibitively expensive for lower-income families. Students performing well are likely to come from wealthier families where one or both parents are college graduates.

So while equity may have not been the motivation for this change, it will likely be one of its ancillary benefits.

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