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Universities’ gains are losses at MI community colleges

In what is likely bad news for Michigan community colleges, Michigan State University will not require SAT scores from applicants. Like many other colleges and university, MSU dropped SAT scores as part of its admissions package during the pandemic. Saginaw Valley State University has also announced that it will no longer consider SAT scores.

For some schools, the pandemic was not the major determinant in institutions’ decisions to drop the SAT/ACT as a requirement for admission. In 2019, prior to COVID-19, about 25% of schools did not require applicants to submit test scores with their applications. Today, more than 1,000 schools do not require applicants to submit test scores.

The move away from standardized testing may be a contributing factor to the drop in community college enrollment. When four-year institutions free students from the requirements of submitting test scores, students tend to submit applications more readily. Not by coincidence, students of color and first-generation college students are the students who have benefited from the change. Community colleges typically serve a higher proportion of minority students, so they are most likely to lose these applicants.

Researchers looking at the impact of dropping SAT testing requirements for college applicants have said that the net result of such a decision is that applications and enrollments rise. When universities enforce standardized test requirements, would-be applicants self-reject. That leads colleges and universities – particularly those that are more selective – to attract a smaller, less diverse applicant pool. It also means that those students – who decided independently that they would not be admitted to their choice schools – more often enroll at a local community college to prepare for transferring to a university later.

Community colleges must aim for non-traditional students

Community colleges have often benefited from a transfer pipeline to colleges and universities. To avoid this emerging conflict, community colleges must start actively recruiting more non-traditional students.

Re-arranging course schedules to accommodate working students and providing support services like on-campus childcare are two ways community colleges can remain relevant. These accommodations, more so than free tuition, can help keep students on track and in the classroom.
WCC’s administration closed the on-campus childcare facility last year in a move that will hurt the students they most need on campus. That raises significant questions about the seriousness of WCC’s commitment to serve non-traditional students.

WCC’s pursuit of transfer students at the expense of its occupational education programs has left one of the best-funded community colleges with a threadbare course catalog, and few ideas on the part of the largest, most expensive community college administration in the State.
It is time for a change.

Photo Credit: Diverse Stock Photos , via Flickr