January 29, 2020
New 'test-blind' policy is first of its kind for an Illinois institution.
Northern Illinois University today announced it will eliminate the use of standardized test scores for general admission and merit scholarship decisions. This new "test-blind" policy will begin for students applying to NIU for the fall of 2021.
Any high school graduate who applies to NIU with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above will be guaranteed admission. All freshman applicants will be automatically considered for NIU Merit Scholarships, based on their GPA. The sweeping change includes the University Honors Program, with students applying to that program for the fall of 2021 no longer required to submit standardized test scores.
National higher education studies and NIU's own data show a student's high school GPA is a better indicator of future academic success than performance on a standardized ACT or SAT test.
"This new policy comes from our deep commitment to making a college education both accessible and equitable for a broad and diverse student population," NIU President Lisa Freeman said. "It reflects our efforts campus-wide to eliminate unnecessary and biased barriers throughout a student's educational path."
"Once we know a high school student's GPA, one standardized test score is irrelevant," said NIU Executive Vice President and Provost Beth Ingram, Ph.D. "The new policy will allow more students to take advantage of the life-changing educational opportunities we provide. We believe that this will encourage good students to focus on getting the most out of their high school classes."
Student applicants with a GPA below 3.0 will be considered for admission to NIU based on a holistic review which will consider a broad spectrum of factors, such as academic preparation and performance, motivation, resilience and resourcefulness.
"This now allows us, much earlier in the process, to really get to know students on a more personal level," said Sol Jensen, vice president for Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications. "We believe it also will help with retention efforts down the road as we're able to individualize the resources and services our students need to succeed."
The new practices aim to empower disadvantaged students without the means or resources to prepare for tests, and they reflect well-documented findings that standardized test scores often are more reflective of a student's socioeconomic background than their academic abilities, Jensen said
Research shows that the costs and inaccessibility of test preparation resources and courses often inhibit minority and low-income students, as well as students with disabilities.
While a growing number of colleges have announced "test-optional" criteria, NIU is the first public institution in Illinois to adopt an entirely "test-blind" criteria for applicants.
"NIU faculty were instrumental in making this change and recognize that our students are more than a test score," Provost Ingram said. The policy also has been guided and championed by shared governance including Faculty Senate, Baccalaureate Council and University Council.
Northern Illinois University is a student-centered, nationally recognized public research university, with expertise that benefits its region and spans the globe in a wide variety of fields, including the sciences, humanities, arts, business, engineering, education, health and law. Through its main campus in DeKalb, Illinois, and education centers for students and working professionals in Chicago, Hoffman Estates, Naperville, Oregon and Rockford, NIU offers more than 100 areas of study while serving a diverse and international student body.