June’s Admissions & Education News: Dropping Price of College, Common App Changes, Online ACT, Shorter GRE image

June’s Admissions & Education News: Dropping Price of College, Common App Changes, Online ACT, Shorter GRE

Jun 27, 2023

JD-Next Now an Approved Path to Law School Admission for Some Students


JD-Next, a law school entrance exam developed by the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law, has been approved by the American Bar Association. This approval currently only applies to Arizona Law Applicants; however, other schools can request ABA permission to use it for their admissions. JD-Next includes an eight-week online course for prospective law students and aims to be a measure for future success that is free from racial disparity.


The JD-Next website describes the program as follows: “students develop skills reading cases, analyzing case law, spotting issues, and writing clearly…Students learn through modeling, coaching, and instant feedback…while practicing the self-assessment skills and deliberate practice necessary to excel at law school.” JD-Next joins the LSAT and the GRE as accredited measures for law school admissions. Worth noting: in 2016, the University of Arizona was also the first law school to use the GRE for law admissions.

New law school admissions test developed by Univ of Arizona gets ABA approval (Reuters) – 6/8/23

GRE Continues to Gain Ground on the GMAT’s Grip on Business School Admissions


From 2016/2017 to 2021/2022, the GRE has nearly tripled its share of the business school market from 7.6% to 22.9 percent. This increase happened concurrently with a decrease in the overall B-School testing market and, moreover, is likely a conservative estimate – as an average of 23 percent of GRE testers fail to indicate a graduate field of study or were listed as undecided. Over the same timeframe at many of the most highly selective business schools, the number of MBA students enrolling with the GRE has doubled or tripled. One key example: at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, 33 percent of 2022 applicants submitted a GRE score, up from 18 percent five years ago.


The likely reason GRE has gained so much ground in recent years is what this article refers to as the “GRE Advantage:” among the most recently enrolled class of MBA students at Stanford, the average GMAT score was in the top 3 percent of all test takers worldwide, while students who submitted a GRE were in the top 15 percent of test takers. This is a not-insignificant differential of 12 percentile points – and this gap could be even wider at other top institutions.  Regardless of the reason for the trends, growing GRE numbers have led the GMAC to lose an estimated $3.7 million in revenue. Time will tell how the launch of the GMAT Focus Edition and the shortened GRE will affect the B-School admissions arms race.

GMAT Still Holds A Commanding Lead But GRE Has Tripled Its Share Of The B-School Market Since 2017 (Poets & Quants) – 6/7/23

Columbia University Joins the Ranks of Schools Cutting Ties With U.S. News Rankings


This week, Columbia University announced that it will no longer participate in the U.S. News & World Report college rankings. Certain Ivy League institutions – including Columbia – pulled some of their graduate programs from the rankings list early this year, and, in March, undergraduate programs at Colorado College and RISD followed suit. Nonetheless, with this announcement, Columbia has become the first major university to refuse to supply undergraduate information to the rankings guide.


The U.S. News rankings system, which has historically been an influential – and even indispensable – resource for many families of college-bound students, has come under fire recently for a variety of reasons including claims that it overvalues prestige, self-interestedly skews institutions’ reputations, and encourages students to take on debt. In response to these criticisms, U.S. News announced a new rankings methodology that would “give increased weight to a school’s success in graduating students from different backgrounds.” 

Columbia University Drops Out of U.S. News Rankings for Undergraduate Schools (NY Times) – 6/6/23

Future of College Admissions Uncertain as Stakeholders Wait For Supreme Court Decision on Affirmative Action


Colleges and other stakeholders are holding their breaths as they wait for a ruling on the U.S. Supreme Court Case that is expected to mark the end of affirmative action. While many are waiting on more clarity before announcing updates to their admissions policies, some are beginning to share their plans with the public. The Common Application, which handles applications for more than 1,000 schools, announced that it will give member colleges the option to receive applications without noting the race or ethnicity of students; nevertheless, the Common App has “no plans to remove the optional race and ethnicity questions that are currently on the application.” Additionally, some schools are considering adding an essay question that allows applicants to discuss instances of discrimination they have faced and how they have responded, while others are creating commissions to study the next best steps in adjusting to the paradigm shift of an admissions landscape without affirmative action.


The pending ruling will likely affect the admissions practices of the country’s 100 top colleges – and likely more. These institutions have to be thoughtful in how they pivot in the aftermath of the court’s decision to ensure that they retain the tools to effectively recruit a diverse student body – and that they adequately protect themselves from legal exposure. Additionally, the pending decision could have consequences that reach beyond the admissions process: if the court rules broadly, thousands of financial aid and special recruitment programs (such as programs for Latina women in science) could be at risk, adversely impacting the lives of countless learners.

Waiting and Planning for a Supreme Court Defeat (Inside HigherEd) – 6/5/23

On the Heels of The GMAT Focus Edition, the GRE is Changing, Too


ETS, the maker of the GRE, has announced plans to revamp the exam, with the first revised GRE becoming available to test takers on September 22nd of this year. The revised GRE will take 1 hour and 58 minutes for students to complete, cutting the current testing time nearly in half. The Quantitative Reasoning section will be reduced from 60 minutes (40 questions) to 47 minutes (27 questions) and the Verbal Reasoning section will be reduced from 70 minutes (40 questions) to 41 minutes (27 questions). For the Analytical Writing section, testers will now only have to write one 30-minute essay – as opposed to two. In general, the content will not drastically change, but ETS will publish test prep resources for the shorter test in September.


It is no coincidence that this announcement comes so soon after news of a revised GMAT. Both tests in their current form are widely accepted admissions criteria for admission into business schools. By shortening the GRE, ETS is pushing to stay relevant by keeping pace with the GMAT. The GRE seems to already have an edge in certain respects: the testing time for the GRE is 17 minutes shorter and scores are promised to be delivered in 8-10 days, which is much quicker than the turnaround time for the GMAT. Additionally, as opposed to the new GMAT Focus Edition, which doesn’t open registration until August 29th, one can already sign up to take the revised GRE.

The New Shorter GRE: Less Than Two Hours Long (Poets & Quants) – 5/31/23

Most Americans Think Race/Ethnicity Should Not Be a Significant Factor In College Admissions – Most Are Also Opposed to the Court Ending Affirmative Action


According to a recent poll conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 63 percent of U.S. Adults surveyed say that the Supreme Court should not block colleges from factoring race or ethnicity in their admissions process. There was very little divide along racial or political lines. Conversely, 68 percent believe that race/ethnicity should not be a significant factor. Both of these views line up with the way most colleges report currently using race and ethnicity in admissions.


The results of this AP poll are an interesting counterpoint to Reuters’ February survey. That poll also found a majority of Americans (62 percent) opposed to race and/or ethnicity as an admissions metric, but it did not take into consideration respondents’ thoughts on Supreme Court actions surrounding this issue. If this new poll’s results are to be taken at face value, the court ending affirmative action would be against the wishes of most Americans. Interesting to note with this survey: of those polled, an overwhelming 73 percent of respondents believe that legacy (“whether a family member attended”) should not be a significant factor in admissions; whereas, only 17 percent believe that standardized test scores should be a factor.

Most in US say don’t ban race in college admissions but its role should be small: AP-NORC poll (Associated Press) – 5/30/23

Rising Tuition Costs At Four-Year Universities Have Led to Increased Enrollment at Community Colleges


For the first time in a decade, community college enrollment rose (by 0.5 percent) this Spring. This rise follows two consecutive years of significant drops in enrollment: a 10.1 percent drop in 2021 and an 8.2 percent drop in 2022. One potential explanation for this shift is the financial pressure felt by college applicants, which has left some opting for local schools over four-year institutions. The average annual tuition of a two-year in district college is $3,860, which is 35 percent of the average cost of the average annual tuition at an in-state public university and just under 10 percent of that of a four-year private university. This severe disparity means that community college is the best – and sometimes only – higher education option for many students.


When it comes to rising tuition costs, something has to give; for some, a traditional four-year education just doesn’t make financial sense. With the job market currently very strong, and the majority of high school seniors listing job credentials the number one reason for attending college, it follows that some students would take steps toward a fast-track into the workforce. Some companies, such as global advertising firm PMG, are partnering with community colleges to provide programming for these students. With hope, more businesses will tap into the pipeline of community colleges to recruit from a set of diverse and driven students.

Community college is on the rise for Gen Z as high tuition rates and job opportunities encourage them to skip 4-year degrees (Business Insider) – 5/29/23

Online ACT Finally Becoming a Reality


The CEO of ACT announced this week that, after rumblings of doing so for the last five years, the company is finally going to be offering an online version of their test. A pilot version of online testing will be available to 5,000 test centers in December 2023 (capacity is expected to expand throughout 2024). Registration for this test will be open in July. The test itself will not be changing, and, at least for now, students will have the option to take either the online test or the traditional paper and pencil version. Fees, score reporting, and fee waiver requirements will be the same regardless of which delivery method a student chooses.


Although this move is clearly influenced by the SAT’s massive overhaul, the reasoning given by ACT for the changes is to increase accessibility and “autonomy” for students: “by offering an online option, we are able to help more students meet their goals for academic and career success.” The ACT has been a digital exam since 2018 for students testing outside of the U.S., so it will be interesting to see how closely the new format mirrors this current test. It is important to consider that this big announcement comes less than a week after the company announced that it will be laying off 10% of its workforce, marking a major shift in priorities for the company.

The ACT is Evolving (ACT Blog) – 5/29/23

While the ACT announces its long-overdue shift to the digital format in the U.S., the new digital SAT wave is well underway.

To that end, we’ve

 just launched the first-ever Digital SAT Question of the Day App (in the spirit of Wordle 🙂 to help students see steady improvement on the new SAT with daily targeted practice in a fun, intuitive format.It’s free, available for both iPhone and Android, and your students can download the beta version at the link below. We would love any feedback from your students as we try to improve the app 🙂


Why the Push to Eliminate Standardized Tests is Misguided


The author of this piece contends that eliminating standardized test requirements, no matter how high-minded the intentions behind the push to do so may be, will not achieve the intended goal of bridging disparities in equity for disadvantaged students. Citing several studies that more holistic metrics are “consistently biased against poor and ethnic minority children,” the author illuminates the deeper deficiencies in the current system, from “gifted and talented” programs neglecting deserving minority students to GPAs being racially stratified. “Standardized tests do not create inequality: they reveal it.” 


This argument extends beyond primary and secondary testing and, naturally, into college admissions. Take away standardized tests and we are left with admissions criteria that are not free from bias. High school prestige, personal statements, letter of recommendations, and even grading curves are, at least partially, linked with a students’ level of wealth and access to resources. And while the anti-standardized testing camp has an edge in the national argument, a win would be far from a panacea for students who are disadvantaged by the current system.

How to fix standardized testing (Yahoo) – 5/27/23 

With the End of Affirmative Action Looming, Colleges Get Creative to Avoid Litigation


WIth the U.S. Supreme Court expected to make race-conscious admissions unconstitutional, the Common App has preemptively made changes to its “race box.” Beginning in August, colleges will be able to hide information in these identifying boxes from their own admissions teams. This change is designed to help colleges adhere to any new legal standards that come in the future.


This news spotlights one of the first concrete changes to the college admissions process in the leadup to the US Supreme Court decision. Although it is an attempt to “immunize colleges from litigation,” this opt-out could put more pressure on candidates to “signal their racial and ethnic backgrounds through other means” and risk possible consequences.

Colleges will be able to block out a student’s race on admissions applications (Seattle Times) – 5/26/23

The CLT Continues to Brand Itself as the Conservative Answer To a Supposedly Progressive SAT


Fordham Institute contributor and self-proclaimed friend of the CLT interviews the company’s co-founder and CEO, Jeremy Tate. Tate touts that the CLT’s eponymous test draws its source material from classical tests – as opposed to the SAT, which he claims includes thinkers from a “progressive perspective.” Tate goes on to say that this focus on modern texts actually leads to neglect in the classroom. Although Tate has gone on record saying that he doesn’t want the CLT to be thought of as the “Trump test,” he contends that “the CLT is conservative in the sense that it values the intellectual tradition that gave birth to America.”


In fairness, Tate raises some salient points about the importance of students being exposed to big life questions – as well as other ideas presented in key classical texts. That being said, much of his points appear to be made in bad faith. He gives too much power to the influence David Coleman’s College Board has on how students approach education, while not giving enough credence to the SATs superior means to vet questions (compared to that of the CLT). Tate has made clear in statements that he would prefer to have the Department of Education disbanded and that he thinks the federal government sets up barriers against “parental rights.” Furthermore, Tate’s use of loaded terms such as “focus on tradition” and “richness of our intellectual heritage” cements arguments that his approach is even more agenda-forward than the competitors he decries.

The CLT is a growing, classical alternative to the ACT and SAT: An interview with its co-founder (Fordham Institute) – 5/25/23 

ACT’s Announced Layoffs Paint an Uncertain Picture of the Company’s Future


ACT is gearing up to lay off over 100 employees across the company’s various offices in 20 states. This layoff will account for about 10% of the total company. Reportedly, roughly 13 percent of ACT’s workforce in Iowa City headquarters will be let go from the company. According to the official announcement from ACT, “The changes will allow for increased efficiency and greater flexibility in line with the rapid evolution of technology and will bring ACT to the forefront of competitive market changes and rising stakeholder expectations.”


These layoffs are somewhat grim news for the future of the company, especially in light of reported $100 million dollars in net losses over 2019 and 2020. As of now, the company seems to be losing the standardized testing arms race: the SAT has been dominating the news cycle recently with varied controversy surrounding the College Board – as well as with the overarching changes to the test with the digital SAT.

ACT announces plan to lay off over 100 employees, begins sale of Iowa City campus buildings (Iowa Press Citizen) – 5/24/23

Higher Advertised Annual Costs Notwithstanding, The Price of College Is Dropping


Despite the fact that the sticker prices of some U.S. private colleges are approaching an astronomical $90,000 in net costs per year (tuition and fees, room and board, etc.), the average student at a private, four-year college is paying $32,000 per year – down by eleven percent from five years ago. At public colleges, the average annual net cost is $19,250, a drop of thirteen percent in the same timeframe. Approximately two-fifths of public university undergraduates and one quarter of private university undergraduates pay full price.


Sticker shock at a near $100,000 price tag has, rightfully, led to a renewed outcry for greater affordability, but it shouldn’t scare students away from higher education goals. If families can navigate the often-confusion FAFSA process and poor messaging from certain institutions, there are ways of significantly reducing the cost of college. And while, even adjusting for scholarships, grants, and financial aid, some well-advertised private universities are out of reach for some families, public universities and less-well known private institutions can be a great-fit pathway to a degree.

Forget that $90,000 sticker price: College costs are actually going down (The Hill) – 5/15/23

New College Board Survey Shows Families Still Highly Value College Degrees


According to results of a survey conducted by business intelligence company Morning Consult (and commissioned by the College Board), U.S. students and parents — across both geographic and racial lines — value a college degree as much, if not more, than before the pandemic.

Some findings:

  • Nearly 80 percent of students reported being somewhat likely to attend a four-year college within three years of high school graduations
  • Two-thirds of students who plan to attend college report their primary reason for attending is for future acquisition of a preferred job
  • Just over 50 percent of students and parents feel “somewhat prepared” with 12 percent and 20 percent feeling “very prepared.”


Just over 1,000 16-18 year old high school students and 605 of their parents were surveyed here, and it is important to note that, across demographics, the majority of respondents believe the college admissions process to be both difficult and fair (61 percent and 64 percent, respectively). Also noteworthy, students and parents believe that college entrance exams are second only to GPA in providing students the most equal opportunity admissions criteria. More than 80 percent of students and parents want the option to send their scores for college admissions.

Morning Consult Survey, Commissioned by College Board, Reveals Attitudes Toward College and the Admissions Process Since the Pandemic (College Board Press Releases) – 5/12/23

LSAT Requirement Here To Stay – For Now


The movement to eliminate required testing as part of the law school admissions process has hit a new snag. The American Bar Association Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, the group spearheading the proposed change, has announced that it may not approve the change in August as planned. Although the council still advocates that eliminating testing is the best way to give law schools flexibility to recruit the optimal candidates, they cite growing concerns that eliminating these requirements may impact diversity.


The legal academy remains divided on whether keeping or removing the LSAT (and/or GRE) requirement would be best for law schools and students. For both camps, equity and diversity are major considerations. Many of those who wish to remove testing requirements argue that the LSAT is an imperfect measure of potential law school success and is a barrier for minority students. Proponents of keeping the requirements have contended that removing the LSAT as a metric will make admissions offices more dependent on subjective (measures), such as the prestige of a candidate’s undergraduate institution, and, therefore, disadvantage minority students.

ABA pauses move to nix LSAT requirement (Reuters) – 5/12/23

The Chat GPT Schism: The AP and The IB Have Differing Views on the Future of AI Technology


Two of the major curriculum agencies for advanced high school coursework, the Advanced Placement (AP) and the International Baccalaureate (IB), have presented two divergent policies surrounding the use of AI chatbots such as Chat GPT. The AP, which is administered by the College Board, prohibits the use of any AI tools to “guide, brainstorm, draft, or create student work related to any AP assessment;” the use of any such tools is grounds for score cancellation. The IB, on the other hand, has chosen not to ban the use of AI tech, contending that doing so would be “an ineffective way to deal with innovation.” The IB pledges to work with schools to help them support their students “on how to use these tools ethically in line with our principles of academic integrity.” Furthermore, the IB policy calls for proper attribution when students use AI-generated text.


Of course, both the AP and the IB agree that students should not receive credit for words they did not write, but the agencies’ wholly disparate policies speak to the fluidity in thinking surrounding this issue. With 30 percent of college students reporting that they have used chatbot software to finish homework (according to a January survey), the International Baccalaureate’s more forward-thinking policies feel more wise than the College Board’s hardline stance.
AP and IB Programs Disagree Over Whether to Allow ChatGPT (Gov Tech) – 5/12/23

Written by

Zachary Adler
Author Image Since 2010, Zach has been helping students achieve their college readiness goals, specializing in all sections of the SAT, ACT, PSAT, and SHSAT. Prior to joining Onsen, Zach worked for a global investment firm, as well as in various roles in the education space. He has served as a youth mentor and has run college readiness information sessions for students in under-resourced communities. Additionally, Zach is a writer and filmmaker. He is an International Baccalaureate scholar and a graduate of Boston University.

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