Georgia won’t demand SAT, ACT tests to enter most public colleges

Students applying to 23 of Georgia’s 26 public universities and colleges next year won’t need to take the SAT or ACT college tests to apply.

Regents voted Wednesday to let students apply without the tests through the 2024-2025 school year after University System of Georgia officials told them that renewed testing requirements would likely drive students to other colleges.

Tests will remain required at the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech, while Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville will resume a testing requirement in what Chancellor Sonny Perdue characterized as an experiment to examine how requiring the exams affects applications.

Perdue left open the possibility that he could ask regents to permanently abolish testing requirements at many universities.

Tests have never been required at many of Georgia’s nine state colleges, intended to be the least selective of the state’s four tiers of schools. But they had long been required for admission to the state’s 17 public universities until the COVID-19 pandemic struck. With testing services unable to guarantee the exams would be available, the system suspended testing requirements, instead admitting students based only on high school grades. Students who submit optional tests may be admitted with lower grades.

But when the system reimposed testing requirements for admissions in fall 2022, it found that applications fell, and that many students didn’t finish their applications for lack of a test score. Regents hastily again made tests optional for all but the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech in March 2022, but Scot Lingrell, the system’s vice chancellor for enrollment management and student affairs, said it was already too late for student numbers last fall to recover.

"We did go back to test-optional, but during that time, many students had already made their college choice and had already decided to go elsewhere," Lingrell told regents Wednesday during a meeting at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega.

This year, with tests optional at 24 schools, Lingrell said there’s been a big increase in applications and in students accepting offers of admission. He said that system leaders fear that reimposing the requirement could drive more students to other schools, especially public universities in neighboring states, which would hurt already sagging enrollment numbers and pressure finances. Nearly 80% of colleges nationwide currently don’t require tests, said Dana Nichols, the system’s vice chancellor for academic affairs

"Other states are being very, very aggressive coming into Georgia," Lingrell said, citing competition for a declining number of students graduating from high school nationwide.

Perdue said he’s loath to abolish the test requirement, believing tests plus high school grades are a better predictor of college success than grades alone. He advocated reimposing testing requirements at Georgia College and State University, traditionally one of the state’s most academically selective schools, saying it would help "determine the actual impact of how resistant young people today are taking that standardized test, and how much damage it would do."Perdue promised that the system would make up any financial losses suffered by the school, and said it would help provide data for regents to examine whether to permanently roll back testing requirements. Discussion Wednesday showed an unusual public diversity of opinion among regents on the subject, with some supporting continued testing and others arguing it would drive off students.