Starting in 2021, Northern Illinois University will no longer consider applicants’ ACT or SAT standardized test scores for admission. NIU will be the first college in Illinois to open admission, not based on scores, but GPA.
Any high school graduate with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above will be guaranteed admission. In addition, all freshman applicants will be automatically considered for scholarships, based on their GPA. There are concerns that high schools vary on the type of GPAs. High schools decide if they want to make GPAs weighted or unweighted. At one school, students may receive a weighted GPA. At another school, they may receive their GPA unweighted. The main difference between the two is that weighted GPAs take into account the difficulty of your coursework and unweighted GPAs do not.
Another concern for students is that small high schools may not have the more difficult course work that larger and higher funded high schools may have. Basically one school’s GPA of 3.0 may have less value than another school’s GPA of 3.0, based on the quality of class and course work.
Some former and current students say this will be more helpful as some students are not good test-takers. Others feel that our society is a test score based on various levels of life and academic achievements. Students in honor classes must take test for placements. Athletics are tested as who will be the starter and who will be the backup. School musicians are tested as who will sit first chair and who will sit second chair. Testing provides a source of ranking and rating at a variety of levels.
Students applying to the NIU University Honors Program will also no longer be required to submit standardized test scores. This method may also cost students some scholarship opportunities from outside sources.
Northern Illinois University feels these sweeping changes will eliminate barriers to higher education. NIU President Lisa Freeman feels this change will make opportunities to attend Northern more accessible and equitable for a more broad and diverse student population.
This new initiative was created to get more students to attend NIU. Northern and many other state colleges and universities have had declining enrollment in the past 10 years. Other universities have enacted this new no-test change but most of these colleges are either private or religious-based, with higher tuition and graduation value.
NIU has another program already in place that allows for a lower GPA called the McKinley “Deacon” Davis CHANCE Program. The Program is to identify, recruit, admit and assist students who show promise for succeeding in college despite limited preparation and resources. Part of this program does require a selection of GPA and test scores. The Chance program currently requires a basic math test for admission (see sample: https://www.niu.edu/chance/_pdf/math-test.pdf).
Local media and blogs were filled with a variety of pro and con statements about the change. Some alumni question if this effort will diminish the quality of the degree. Would future students be challenged to maintain a certain grade point average to remain a student? Would required attendance be part of the overall success of the program? Would this program be open to students that would live in the dorms as well as commuter students (which has recently increased)? What is the predicted graduation ratio for those that enter in the fall of 2021?