Is this the beginning of the end for paid testing for graduate programs?
As the American economy stabilizes after significant economic gains and growth under the Trump administration, fewer Americans and foreign nationals are applying to attend graduate school programs across the United States. Business schools which offer Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) degrees and law schools have been hard-hit by the economic recovery.
With fewer students applying for graduate programs, in addition to law and business administration, at least two Ivy League universities have seen multiple academic departments drop the requirement for the GRE to apply to its programs. Inside Higher Ed reported that Brown University departments decided to drop the GRE as an admissions requirement in the name of diversity.
Brown University surveyed its academic departments about whether they would prefer to drop the GRE requirement in the admissions process and twenty-four of its programs agreed to do so. Princeton University announced last month that fourteen of its departments dropped the standardized test as an admissions requirement. One of the underlying factors in the decision was the desire for the departments to increase their student diversity, as Asian and white applicants tend to have higher GRE scores than Latino or black applicants.
Brown’s dean of its graduate school, Andrew Campbell, said that removing the GRE requirement “will broaden the talent pool of students.” Among the departments dropping the GRE requirement are humanities departments such as English and French studies, in addition to science departments such as chemistry and computer science.
Inside Higher Ed also reported that other departments at Ivy League universities dropped the GRE during the past two years, such as “the history department at Yale University, the English departments at Cornell University and Harvard University, and the philosophy department at the University of Pennsylvania.”
The GRE administrator, the Educational Testing Service, opposed the move to drop the GRE as a requirement. The vice president and chief operating officer of the global higher education division of the Educational Testing Service, David Payne, said that this was “a mistake.” The statement reads:
“The argument that meeting diversity and completion goals can be done with less information than admissions faculty and committees already have is flawed. Eliminating the GRE score requirement — the only common, objective and research-based measure in the admissions process — will leave only subjective measures for review and selection, heightening the role that implicit bias plays.”
“The GRE Program has always been supportive of holistic admissions practices, advocating that a GRE score is one piece of evidence to be used in decisions. We continue to encourage graduate programs to carefully analyze their admissions practices to understand the purpose, benefits and drawbacks of each application element. This holistic approach, inclusive of GRE scores, provides the best opportunity to bring in a talented and diverse graduate class.”
The GRE is also known as the graduate record examination, and it is a standardized exam used to see if an applicant would be a good cultural and intellectual fit in a graduate program. The registration fee is at least $205, in addition to preparation course fees and the cost of GRE study guides and textbooks. Preparation courses range from $499 to at least two thousand dollars, depending on the length of the course, the company offering the course, and whether it is an online or in-person course.
In short, GRE and other standardized tests are expensive for the average American.
Adding to that, there is an entire industry built on standardized testing and exam preparation. Kaplan and the Princeton Review are two major preparation course providers and appear to make a profit off of GRE testing. Companies such as Pearson administer the test, and these companies benefit from administering standardized testing.
Although Ivy League universities and their policies are not representative of America as a whole, their resistance to accept GRE scores could spell the doom for standardized testing’s future.