Date of Award

Spring 5-1-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Higher Education Leadership, Management, Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Eunyoung Kim, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Richard Blissett, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Alyssa McCloud, Ph.D.


test-optional, admissions, college access, diversity, enrollment


The landscape of American higher education is becoming more competitive each year. Discussions about equity and increasing access to underrepresented student groups grows each year, particularly regarding the role of standardized testing. Some research has shown the SAT and ACT exams, the two primary college entrance exams used in the United States, to be discriminatory towards students of some racial and ethnic minority and low-socioeconomic backgrounds. The number of institutions in the U.S. choosing to forego standardized test scores as part of their admission process for freshman applicants is growing annually, particularly in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic beginning in 2020.

This study sought to identify whether or not adopting a test-optional freshman admission policy was associated with changes in specific institutional outcomes. The research questions focused on outcomes in the areas of diversity in enrollment, reputation of the institution, and student success. Data were obtained from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Educational Data System (IPEDS) as well as U.S. News and World Report and were analyzed using fixed-effects panel regression models. The sample comprised 1,681 4-year, degree-granting institutions in the United States, and the longitudinal dataset spanned 8 years.

The results of the analysis indicated statistically significant results for five of the six dependent variables when institutions switched from a test-required to a test-optional admission policy when controlling for other predictors included in the models; only the U.S. News and World Report rank variable was not found to be significantly related to test score policy.