Date of Award

Fall 11-7-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Higher Education Leadership, Management, Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Robert Kelchen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Daniel Gutmore, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Richard Blissett, Ph.D.


test-optional policy, undergraduate admissions, enrollment, difference-in-differences


This study examines national colleges and universities that have de-emphasized or eliminated standardized test scores and have implemented test-optional policies for undergraduate admissions. The phrase “standardized test(s)” in this study refers to the ACT and the SAT examinations. The study investigates the test-optional admissions trend and provides a “pre-post" quantitative analysis of test-optional policy effects on the number of admitted students, applications, acceptance rates, and the enrollment of Pell Grant recipients and underrepresented minority groups. The study also includes a qualitative summative analysis pertaining to the institutional framing of test-optional policies. The quasi-experimental research design utilizes difference-in-differences regression of cross-sectional, time series (i.e., panel) data. The sample is comprised of U.S. national colleges and universities that have implemented a test-optional policy for first-year, full-time, undergraduate admissions in comparison to test-requiring institutions. The sample represents both public and private institutions, varying in enrollment, ranking, and acceptance rates. The study presents arguments from test-optional advocates and opponents, discusses theoretical frameworks, assesses previous research, and provides recommendations to the literature. It concludes with the findings, identification of limitations, and suggestions to prompt further study.