Sunday, April 08, 2001

University of Cincinnati

By Joseph A. Steger
President, University of Cincinnati

        Here is something I have learned after three decades in higher education: Simple solutions cause more problems than they solve.

        The recent suggestion to eliminate college admission tests is one such “simple” solution. There may be some benefit to studying the role of admission tests, or reviewing their weight and role in the admissions process, but dismissing them completely would remove a tool that is useful for both colleges and for prospective students.

        It is a fact, backed up by decades of research, that admission test scores in combination with a student's high school grade point average are the best predictor of success in the crucial first year of college. Research has also shown that admission scores are not helpful as the sole exclusionary factor in admissions.

        In context - that is, when incorporated into a thoughtful process - admission tests can tell a college if a student has a chance of success, and they can help direct a student to the right program within an institution of higher learning. In context, tests can help a student find the “right” college. The goal is to find the right fit between student and institution.

        There is no simple solution like “the right college” for everyone. Many factors, including some that are not measurable, enter into the decision of a student to enroll at a particular institution, and of an institution to accept a particular student.

        Admission tests are one of these factors, and useful in combination with criteria such as the size of an institution, its academic style, proximity and cost, and even how it feels. Institutions and students should also factor in a student's grade point average, class standing, interests and perseverance.

        Simple (I won't say simplistic) solutions can inspire the necessary re-examination of accepted wisdom. Accepting such solutions, however, rarely solves the problem.


Miami University
Northern Kentucky University
Thomas More College
- University of Cincinnati
Xavier University