Board of Governors Considering Reinstating SAT, ACT Requirement

Four years after passing a temporary waiver on requiring students to submit standardized tests scores when applying to a North Carolina public university, the UNC Board of Governors is considering reinstating a partial requirement, a proposal that drew opposition from some members.

The board voted to waive the SAT and ACT requirement in July 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and has twice extended the waiver. The waiver expires in the fall.

The board’s Educational Planning, Policies and Programs committee proposed during its Feb. 28 meeting to make test scores optional for some students based on their GPA. Students with GPAs below 2.8 would be required to submit test scores beginning in fall 2026. Students must earn a minimum score of 17 out of 36 on the ACT and a minimum 930 out of 1,600 on the SAT to be eligible for consideration. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 2.5 to apply.

Students with GPAs above 2.8 would not be required to submit test scores unless a UNC System school requires applying students to do so. But chancellors who want to institute a test score requirement must receive clearance from the BOG and UNC System President Peter Hans ’91.

Some board members said the requirement would ensure admitted students are adequately prepared for college. “We have students with high GPAs but low standardized tests that may get placed on a campus where they’re more likely to fail,” said board member Art Pope ’78. “Likewise, we have students with poor grade point averages that may have come from one of our public schools that are not as well prepared at providing quality education. High test scores can identify them as being potential for success.”

Board member Woody White said he was concerned about “lowering standards” and if a vote had been taken on Feb. 28, he would “vote to have an option of requiring the test. Period.” Vice Chair Wendy Murphy said standardized tests are necessary but said high schools should better prepare students for college-level work.

Gene Davis ’90 (’97 JD) cautioned other members about reinstating the requirement for tests and referenced public universities such as Clemson University, Virginia Tech and University of South Carolina, and private schools such as Duke, Wake Forest, Elon and High Point universities and Davidson and Guilford colleges that are test optional.

Davis said students may choose to apply to those schools rather than UNC because they would not be required to take a standardized test. “Do we want to put ourselves as a university system at a competitive disadvantage?” he asked. “We want to keep North Carolina students here.”

Davis also said some students don’t have access to preparatory courses for standardized tests, putting them at a disadvantage.

Committee Chair Kirk Bradley said it was clear to him his colleagues were “trying to make sure every student, rural or urban, has an opportunity to attend the university system … and I think we’ll come up with a policy.”

If the policy isn’t voted on by December, all UNC universities will revert to pre-pandemic requirements: All students in the incoming fall 2025 class will be required to take a standardized test and have a minimum 2.5 GPA or a minimum 19 on the ACT or a minimum 1,010 on the SAT.

Other schools, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dartmouth College and Yale University, have been reinstating standardized test requirements.

The committee will revisit the proposal at its April 17 meeting. The policy must be approved by both the committee and the full board before being adopted.

Cameron Hayes Fardy ’23, with reporting from Laurie D. Willis ‘86

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