Written By: Reagan Flowers, PhD
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Plan A and B for some high school seniors who intended to take the SAT or ACT for the first time this semester, or to improve upon their scores. Those options are now off the table. The College Board has canceled all tests through the summer, with the option to take online tests if the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic persists through the fall; ACT, Inc. is offering the same.
Seemingly, there are no options on the table for college bound high school seniors. Many fear that they will not be able to enroll in their first-choice university either because they have missed admission deadlines, are experiencing financial challenges, or fear for their health and wellness. Some concessions are being made for high school juniors by approximately 51 colleges/universities. These institutions will waive the SAT and ACT admission requirements through 2021, with some universities making testing optional beyond that period. These concessions could be right on time for middle to upper class students, while it will be more of the same for minority and low-income students who already face challenges with performing well on standardized tests and are not provided access to resources that aid them in boosting their scores. It seems that waiving test scores will not increase their chances for college admissions. It is also safe to say that this will result in a more rigorous college admissions application process and further widening of the achievement gap.
For graduating seniors who have received their admissions letters from universities, they are now faced with some tough decisions. With all colleges and universities shifting to online learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic, students must determine the most cost effective route to take. There are lots of questions about the affordability of 4-year universities, and many are weighing their options since courses will more than likely remain online. It is plausible that community colleges could become the more affordable, attractive option, where students could choose community college to complete the first two years of study towards completing a 4-year degree.
Many community colleges offer promise programs that provide last dollar assistance to cover expenses after federal grant aid has been applied to a student’s tuition. This is great, as it makes college possible for so many, and increases the likelihood of students taking on less debt as a result of acquiring a degree. The economic impact of COVID-19 can be felt across all business sectors and is inspiring community colleges to be proactive. Many are increasing their capacity to provide students with roadmaps for courses they will need to transfer to 4-year universities, providing advice and guidance on transfer courses that count towards their major to minimize students having to take additional courses, and developing transfer pathway programs with 4-year universities that eliminate the hurdles and complications that often occur when students transfer from community colleges to 4-year universities.
The attainment of bachelor degrees beyond associate degrees for low to moderate to middle-income students must be a strategic priority for community colleges. On the graduate school side of the house, most have waived admission test score requirements (GRE/GMAT/MAT MCAT) for summer through spring 2021. This will allow students to complete registration and orientation, secure housing and submit their scores after the deadline. Students seeking graduate school admissions can expect to experience a more selective application and interview process. At the end of the day, the goal is to increase the chances of students moving up the economic ladder and not sliding down.