Home Campus Ohio U eliminates test-score admissions requirement, talks COVID-19 budget impacts

Ohio U eliminates test-score admissions requirement, talks COVID-19 budget impacts

9 min read
Duane Nellis, Board of Trustee Appointment Announcement

Ohio University will no longer require submission of ACT and SAT test scores for Athens campus first-year admissions.

At the Board of Trustees meeting Thursday, Elizabeth Sayrs, university executive vice president and provost, said the scores will now be optional for students to submit with their applications.

“There’s a national trend away from requiring an ACT or an SAT score, primarily because it’s not the best indicator of whether a student will succeed or not,” Sayrs said. “(ACT/SAT scores are) actually most closely tied with a student’s socioeconomic status, and there are better and more equitable measurements we can use in our admissions process.”

Sayrs presented data showing that in comparison to other application information, such as high school grade point average, test scores are not extremely relevant predictors of a student graduating college by year six.

In a press release Thursday, President Duane Nellis expressed support for the measure. 

“Ohio University strives to be a place of access and inclusion, even in our most rigorous and selective admission processes,” Nellis said. “We know that standardized testing sometimes can present access barriers. By making submission of standardized tests optional, I’m pleased that we can remove one more obstacle for students, especially in this moment.”

College applicants who choose not to submit a test score are still eligible for admission into selective majors, merit-based scholarships and scholars programs such as OHIO Honors. Sayrs said that all programs have agreed to adapt to test-optional applicants.

Ohio U had already moved to make test scores optional for the incoming freshman class due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, now making it permanent. 

Vice President for Finance and Administration Deborah Shaffer also updated the Board of Trustees also on the current projections for how much COVID-19 could cost the university. 

All estimates regarding the coronavirus pandemic’s impact are based on current information and will likely change as more information, such as the final enrollment numbers for fall 2020, is known. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio U expected an enrollment increase for fall 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic has drastically altered the enrollment models. 

With new information adapted to COVID-19, Shaffer said that the university is projected to have about a $18 million net loss in tuition revenue with the new enrollment models compared to the pre-pandemic models.

Robin Oliver, vice president of University Communications and Marketing and member of the Strategic Executive Enrollment Committee, explained in a follow up phone call that the fall 2020 enrollment models have been updated twice because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The committee made an enrollment projection in May based on national surveys and adjusted the projections again in June as the traditional enrollment deadline passed. 

“COVID blew up all of the models of how we typically would do enrollment projections,” Oliver said. 

She stressed that the typical benchmarks used to make enrollment projections are now unreliable due to the sweeping effects the coronavirus pandemic has had on all aspects of life.

The current enrollment projections to be used for the budget are, as Oliver said, “our best educated guess.”

Ohio U is also expected to face revenue reductions due to the state’s budget cuts, which was about $6.5 million for fiscal year 2020. According to Shaffer, Ohio U’s budget could face a $34.3 million reduction for fiscal year 2021, but this estimate could change when the state’s fiscal year 2021 budget is finalized. 

Shaffer also presented estimates of costs due to COVID-19 prevention measures for the fall semester if Ohio U allows students to return to campus in the fall which are not yet reported in the FY21 budget.

The most significant costs would be incurred in “environmental controls,” such as personal protection equipment, masks and cleaning supplies; and “instructional delivery,” such as adding additional class sections for large courses to ensure social distancing. These categories were estimated to cost $3.1 million and almost $2 million respectively. 

Shaffer noted expenses are based on assumptions and will change as more information is known. 

Shaffer gave the $360,000 listed for testing as an example. That amount is based on symptomatic testing only, but Shaffer said the amount of testing needed is still being determined by the university. 

Testing the entire university population could cost more than $3 million, according to Shaffer. 

“That tells you about the variability some of these expenses will have based on scenarios and state guidance and federal guidance as we get close to reopening and this pandemic continues to change,” Shaffer said. 

The expenses draft also outlined a possible $3.7 million cost to the university in regard to room and board, which included using more residence hall facilities to decrease population density and using takeout and delivery options in dining halls. 

According to Shaffer, Ohio U has applied for a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant, which she expects will be awarded, which could cover costs in specific categories of COVID-19 expenses. 

“I’m hopeful by August we’ll have a better understanding of both what these actual reopening expenses are, as well as what our ability from various external sources will be to recover what portion of those expenses,” Shaffer said.

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