How Bloomberg Got it Wrong

A recent article in Bloomberg suggests test-optional colleges and universities are talking out of both sides of their mouths because we buy the names of students who take the SAT or ACT.

Inflammatory and illogical posts like this are good to drive traffic to your site, but really, doesn’t some editor owe the reading public a laugh test before publishing?

The College Board/ETS and ACT run a variety of businesses: Testing, of course; curriculum programs like AP; prediction services; net-price calculators; financial aid analysis, and even non-cognitive variable assessment.  And by doing so, they have become the de facto brokers of student lists in the nation.  Criticizing colleges for using this service is like criticizing Boeing for using GE engines on their aircraft while using Sylvania for their on-board light bulbs.  It just doesn’t follow.

If it did, you’d have to then argue that if you bought ACT names, you’d have to require the ACT of every applicant; or if you bought the College Board names, you’d have to require the SAT for every applicant.  In fact, no one does (that I know of) and no one requires the PSAT at all, despite the fact that the PSAT search is the most widely-used search in college admissions.

You may get some traction on this argument if you demonstrate that a college is only buying the names of high-scoring students while saying publicly the tests aren’t valid predictors.  But even the most ardent of test critics admit that at the top end, the tests do work due to their low rate of false-positives (I’ve written about this earlier).

However, we’ve done the opposite; purchasing more names of students with high GPA and lower test scores. We can’t buy the name of every student, of course, because, well, we have a budget.

It’s dangerous for non-practitioners to wander into higher education and start criticizing the way we do things, yet it’s become sport for some.  I recommend Bloomberg stick to Wall Street in the future.

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