Finally: University System of Georgia waives ACT/SAT requirement for 2021 applicants

You can put away the prep books. The University System of Georgia just announced scores will not be required for students applying to the 26 public campuses next year.

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You can put away the prep books. The University System of Georgia just announced scores will not be required for students applying to the 26 public campuses next year.

High school seniors applying to 26 public campuses will not have to take tests to be admitted

UPDATED Wednesday with information on Zell Miller Scholarship requirements:

I have been getting weekly emails from anxious parents waiting for this news: The University System of Georgia will waive its test score requirements for spring, summer and fall 2021 admission to its 26 campuses due to uncertainty about the scheduling of SAT/ACT testing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 60% of bachelor-degree granting colleges and universities already decided not to require applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores for fall 2021 admission, according to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest).

Georgia was among the latecomers to the party in the South; flagships in Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and Mississippi made the call earlier this summer. (It is likely Georgia’s action today will prod some other holdouts to announce they are waiving their testing requirement.)

In its announcement, USG said it made the decision after monitoring testing availability during the spring and summer, when multiple test date cancellations caused limited testing availability and negatively impacted students.

“This temporary adjustment will allow students to apply for Spring, Summer and Fall 2021 admission without submitting ACT or SAT scores. Students must still meet all other admission requirements, and must meet adjusted minimum grade point average eligibility thresholds for admission to each USG sector. Students who have SAT/ACT scores may still submit them,” said the announcement.

Bob Schaeffer, FairTest’s interim executive director, said, “Schools eliminating ACT and SAT mandates recognize that multiple test dates have been cancelled this spring and summer. Many sites, where exams were scheduled for this fall, will not open. That makes it impossible for many applicants to submit scores. Admissions officers also know that test-optional policies worked well at the 1,000 schools, which implemented them before the pandemic.”

Several parents have reached out about whether students must still have a qualifying ACT or SAT score to earn the Zell Miller Scholarship, which pays full tuition at public colleges for eligible students.

Yes, at this point, students still must have a test score as that requirement was imposed by the Legislature, so it is in state law and can only be undone by the General Assembly.

When the Legislature pared back the HOPE Scholarship in 2011, it created a two-tiered HOPE Scholarship system. Now, students must have a 3.7 or higher GPA in high school and a 1,200 on the SAT or an ACT composite score of 26 to earn the highest level of HOPE, the Zell Miller Scholarship.

HOPE lite -- my term for it -- still requires a 3.0 GPA with no test score component, but the amount of the award varies each year depending on available Georgia Lottery funds. It usually covers about 80% of tuition.

In the spring when COVID-19 closed schools and caused the ACT and SAT to cancel test dates, the agency that oversees HOPE, the Georgia Student Finance Commission, extended the deadline to submit test scores for this year until the end of December for students starting college now.

Normally, those scores are due by high school graduation, said Chris Green, director of external affairs and special projects for the commission. But the cancellation of spring testing dates by the SAT and ACT -- which still is a problem in Georgia -- led to the extension.

While the commission hasn’t yet announced a testing extension for 2021 college applicants, Green said, “Students can receive the HOPE Scholarship and then we can always award the Zell differential retroactively. Our team is working as fast as we can to address that.”

Green shared a way parents can help the commission get to work on its formal response to the 2021SAT and ACT testing challenges: Because the requirements for the HOPE and Zell scholarships are set by the Legislature and not the commission, parents should direct suggestions and comments about needed changes to their lawmakers rather than calling the commission offices.