FairTest Reacts to the 2019 College Admissions Scandal

Between expensive test prep, pricey advisors, unethical, and, in this case, downright illegal behavior, ACT and SAT scores are easily “gamed” by those with financial means. To reduce the unfair advantage that people with abundant resources have in our test-reliant admissions system, FairTest leads the national movement for test-optional admissions policies. Today more than 1,000 colleges and universities have test-optional policies that evaluate an applicant’s entire portfolio.

See FairTest’s list of More than 1000 four-year colleges and universities that do not use the SAT or ACT to admit substantial numbers of bachelor-degree applicants. (Including our List of 325 test-optional and test-flexible schools ranked in the top tiers of their respective categories).

You can help encourage even more colleges and universities to treat applicants as “More Than a Score.” Your financial support will allow FairTest to promote test-optional policies at more conferences of admissions policy-makers, reach out to additional higher education leaders and distribute copies of this list to counselors and student advocacy groups.

FairTest has contributed to a number of media stories on this scandal. Quotes and inks to the stories are included below:

  • “But critics say SAT and ACT results follow a pattern of all standardized test scores: Kids from poor families do worse than kids with more money. Wealthy parents can provide benefits that many poor families can’t, such as tutors, learning opportunities, the best medical care and schools with ample resources. Bob Schaeffer, public education director of a nonprofit organization called FairTest, or the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, said some of those charged in Varsity Blues were alleged to have engaged in at least four different test-cheating techniques. Those alleged schemes included hiring impersonators to take the exams; making phony “disability” claims to gain extra test-taking time; paying to change wrong answers or fill in missing responses; and bribing proctors and test-site supervisors to ignore these illegal acts.”
    “Is it finally time to get rid of the SAT and ACT college admissions tests?”
    The Washington Post, March 19, 2019

  • “In other words, Schaeffer said, the scores are subject to expensive test prep, private tutors or bribed proctors. “Well-to-do people buy their kids all kinds of advantages,” Schaeffer said. “These so-called objective numbers are very easily manipulated in a way that creates a tilted playing field.”
    “SAT and ACT Take Hit in Bribery Scandal, but Many Colleges No Longer Require Them”
    San Francisco Chronicle, March 17, 2019

  • “According to Fair Test: the National Center for Fair and Open Testing – as of today – 1,023 accredited, Bachelor-degree granting college and universities will make admissions decisions about all or many of their applicants without regard to ACT or SAT scores. The test-optional list now includes more than half of the nation’s top-ranked liberal arts colleges and a rapidly growing number of selective universities such as the University of Chicago, Wake Forest, Brandeis, American, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and George Washington. I’m hoping this trend will continue.
    “Scholastic Aptitude Transgression”
    As spoken on CNN, March 16, 2019

  • The degrees to which rich and famous families may have gone to cheat on them could become a watershed moment for the rejection of standardized tests at every level of the education system — but particularly in college admissions. “This scandal may be the final straw that tips the balance” toward a test-optional admissions system, said Robert Schaeffer, the public education director of FairTest, a group that believes the exams are racially and culturally biased. “We expect the floodgates to start opening.”
    “College Cheating Scandal Shows a Standardized Test Isn’t Always a Fair One”
    The New York Times, March 14, 2019

  • “I think it perfectly encapsulates everything that’s wrong with the system,” said Andre Green, executive director of the education nonprofit FairTest. For more than 30 years, they’ve been advocating for assessment reform policies like nationwide test-optional college admissions. “The stakes are so high, and the system is so focused on test scores that of course people are going to cheat,” Green said. FairTest says de-emphasizing standardized tests increases diversity and access to educational opportunities. As of January 2018, 1,000 four-year colleges and universities in 49 states are test-optional. “If you are a person of means, you are already paying $1,000 for test prep. The fact that there’s even an industry for admissions counselors to help you package your kids to get into college speaks to the fact the whole system’s pay-to-play,” Green said.
    “Expert: College Admissions Scandal Proves ‘The Whole System’s Pay-To-Play’”
    Boston 25 News, March 13, 2019 (with Video)

  • “No question that this still-unfolding scandal will further undermine the credibility of ACT and SAT scores and boost the test-optional movement,” said Bob Schaeffer, a longtime critic of the standardized tests who runs a group called FairTest. “How can an admissions office tell which scores are legitimate, which are pumped up by expensive test-prep steroids (legal if ethically questionable), and which are simply fabricated?”
    “Admissions Scandal Reveals Why America’s Elite Colleges Are Under Fire”
    Politico, March 12, 2019

  • These are desperate parents who believe their kids will not be successful, or their family image will be hurt, unless their kid enrolls at a name-brand school,” said Robert Schaeffer, public education director at FairTest, a nonprofit that monitors the testing industry. The best metaphor is an “arms race,” Schaeffer said, in which affluent parents take extreme measures to get their children into good schools because they fear that other parents are doing the same. “It just ramps up the competitive hysteria.”
    “Rich Parents Have Plenty of Ways to Game the U.S. Education System”
    Bloomberg, March 12, 2019

  • “This is both the worst case of corruption in the college admissions process ever seen in the U.S., and just a natural extension of the kinds of manipulation that people with money have done to get their kids into selective colleges.”
    FairTest’s Robert Schaeffer, Video Interview
    Al Jazeera, March 12, 2019