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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, June 24, 2024

Some students 'score' extra cash, scholarships for retaking the SAT

The burden of college tuition on the family budget leads many students to find part-time jobs or participate in paid research studies. Students at Baylor University have another way to pay the bills: retaking the SAT for cash.

Last June, Baylor offered its admitted class of 2012 $300 in bookstore credit for retaking the SAT by the end of September. The school, located in Waco, Texas, also offered students who improved their scores by 50 points or more $1,000 per year in scholarship money.

Of the 861 students that retested, 150 raised their scores enough to qualify for the scholarship. These boosts in scores were enough to raise the average test score of the incoming class by 10 points, from 1200 to 1210.

Some critics, however, believe that Baylor is using this tactic to unfairly try to raise its average SAT scores to get a jump in the college rankings.

The U.S. News & World Report's Best Colleges ranking uses average SAT and ACT scores, among other factors, to rank universities across the country. The ten point increase in Baylor's scores could mean a one or two place difference in the rankings.

Higher test scores could also draw a higher scoring applicant pool in future years, since prospective students average standardized test scores to gauge where they might be accepted.

Sophomore Catherine Swanson said that the SAT is a good way of categorizing the different schools. "SAT scores are a factor," Swanson said. "They put the school into perspective — whether it is a safety, a guarantee or a reach."

Despite these criticisms, Lori Fogleman, Baylor's director of media communications, argued that the university did not enact the changes with the intent to raise average scores.

"We were not trying to increase our average score by accepting later test scores; we plan to remove the incentives in the future," Fogleman said.

According to Fogleman, Baylor's motivation in providing the opportunity was that they had not yet spent their entire financial aid budget and wanted to give students a chance to earn additional scholarships from the available money.

"After we had moved up the deadlines for both admission and financial aid … to provide earlier decisions to the students and families, we realized that our awarded financial aid was lower than in previous years," Fogleman said. "We also realized that many students had not taken [the SAT] in over a year, and by pushing [the acceptance] deadline ahead, we had prevented them from showing their best example of academic potential. Thus, we might have boxed students out of the merit aid they deserved."

If Tufts were to offer students a monetary incentive to retake the SAT, many would oblige.

"I'd say [yes to the offer]," freshman Maia Warner said. "I could either spend four hours at a job to make $10 an hour or four hours making $300 dollars to take a test I've already studied for."

Sophomore Dan Slate said that, although he hated taking the SAT during the college admissions process, he would consider taking it to gain a scholarship. "The SAT is a miserable experience, and I would never want to sit through it again," Slate said. "Taking it now, I wouldn't have some of the pressures that I had before, so getting $300 for something that doesn't matter might be a good deal."

While other students at Tufts also find a $1000 scholarship incentive tempting, they wonder about the feasibility of raising test scores that, given the school's selectivity, are already relatively high.

"I was only 150 points away from the maximum and had taken a Kaplan course to get there; it would be significantly harder to raise [my score] any more," Warner said.

Sophomore Catherine Swanson agreed the task would not be easy. "Fifty points is a lot to raise [my score] by. I don't think that extra studying would raise it by that much."

It is unlikely, however, that such a system would ever be put in place at Tufts. Since Tufts does not offer merit-based financial aid, Director of Admissions Susan Garrity Ardizzoni said, neither the Admissions Office nor the Office of Financial Aid would require such a process.

"The SAT is a test to be used in the admissions process, not as a gauge of high school knowledge," she said. "Students [at Tufts] will send in AP scores after the year, but those are more for the advising process, not admissions."

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