Lawmaker criticizes university for extending test-optional admissions policy

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has announced that it will extend its test-optional policy for two more years.

State Rep. Dave Murphy the extension 'is bad for students, it’s bad for colleges, and it’s bad for taxpayers.'

The University of Wisconsin-Madison will extend its test-optional admissions policy through spring 2025 based on a Dec. 10 vote by the Board of Regents. 

The UW system first allowed colleges to waive the testing requirement in 2020 because the COVID-19 pandemic shut down many testing sites. Under this policy, students may choose not to submit SAT or ACT scores without their applications being penalized.  

Derek Kindle, the Vice Provost for Enrollment Management, said in a news release, "This extension allows us to offer continued flexibility in the admissions process for prospective students." 

[RELATED: MORABITO: Ditching SAT for 'equity' will have opposite effect]

State Rep. Dave Murphy (R-Greenville) says the policy is misguided. 

"ACT and SAT scores are one of the few remaining objective criteria that colleges have access to in determining whether a student will succeed on their campus," he said in a Dec. 13 statement. 

"These tests provide a critical benchmark for both applicants and colleges in deciding the best fit for higher education. Discovering that a college is the wrong fit for you only after you’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars is something that no one should be subjected to."

Murphy chairs the legislature's Committee on Colleges and Universities. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley.

Murphy's opposition to the policy stems in part from wanting public colleges to be transparent about their academic standards. 

The Wisconsin lawmaker said, “College admissions are shrouded in secrecy, with applicants and even legislators left in the dark about what is takes to be admitted to our state’s tax-payer funded schools."

[RELATED: UVA, fourth best public college in US, lowers academic standards for two more years]

So far, that transparency has been hard to come by. 

Murphy stated he requested information from UW-Madison earlier this year about how it trains admissions staff, but that the university gave him "documents with more than 80 percent of the pages heavily or entirely redacted." 

He asked, "If the government that funds our public universities can’t even determine what it takes to be admitted, how are students and their families supposed to?"

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is not the only major university to extend its test-optional policy. As Campus Reform has previously reported, the University of Virginia decided earlier this year to keep its test-optional policy in place until at least 2023. 

Mark Pitsch, the University of Wisconsin System's Media Director, told Campus Reform, "A primary mission of the University of Wisconsin System is to provide educational opportunities and higher education access to as many students as possible. Students may still submit ACT and SAT test scores to our institutions as part of their applications, but pausing this requirement allows us to further review the tests' effectiveness in predicting student success." 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AngelaLMorabito