Staff Editorial – Income inequality is putting high test scores for sale

Wealth should not be a factor in scoring well on standardized tests.

The SAT and ACT are standardized tests created to assess students’ proficiency in math, reading, and writing, but since testing has become a significant factor in college admission decisions as supposed indicators of college success, income inequality has become extremely prevalent.

Although many colleges have been cutting back on the importance of a score in admittance by making test scores optional, an SAT or ACT score can still be the difference between accepting or rejecting a candidate into some colleges. What admissions officers do not see behind the score is the amount of money and time students were able to spend on test prep. With the average workload that juniors and seniors are already expected to deal with, along with the hundreds of clubs, sports and extracurriculars that are offered, the SAT and ACT are yet another burden for upperclassmen to handle outside of the classroom.

These tests were originally established to assess students on high school content. However, tutoring and prep course industries have taken over the testing season, and the SAT and ACT scores are no longer as reliable. Now, many students spend hundreds of dollars on test prep courses and materials in hopes of improving their scores for college, and they are not a strong indicator of future success or academic readiness.

According to a 2021 study done by Student Aid Policy, students with a familial income of over $100,000 are more than twice as likely to have a combined SAT score of 1400-1600 than students with a family income under $50,000.

With all of these fees that go into test prep, tutors, books and retakes, it seems as though we are paying for a high score on these tests. Instead of relying on Mason’s education system to get us through spring testing, we reach for extra, costly, prep courses. Local prep company LEAP charges
$279 for their 12-hour ACT or SAT prep course. Featured on Shark Tank, Prep Expert charges $999 for a 6-week SAT prep course guaranteeing at least a 200-point increase on the SAT.

These prices are an unreasonable amount to burden teenagers and their families with, alongside the looming costs of student loans.

Should a student’s ability to splurge on hours of overpriced tutoring play a factor in their future? The significant time commitment that the SAT or ACT demands is unreasonable. Students with familial obligations, jobs to fund college or other preoccupations may not have the time to dedicate a substantial portion of their high school life to preparing for a standardized test. With all these commitments we already have, it is fruitless to dedicate more time to preparing for a standardized test that doesn’t directly contribute to the development of crucial skills.

If the SATs and ACTs are to remain a deciding factor in college admissions, they should be more accessible to students