Students Are Not Their Income

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Kelly Sikkema

Scratch paper for a student’s SAT exam.

Sofia Barnett, Editor-In-Chief

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, only 18% of all colleges and universities in the United States had a test-optional policy for prospective students. Now, under the terms of our “new normal,” tests are being canceled, people are getting sick and families are suffering severe economic casualties, leaving over half of all US schools to not require standardized testing scores for admission. This new development, albeit frustrating for some, is a beacon for low-income students. This is just a start. Students who do decide to submit their standardized testing scores deserve to be evaluated fairly and in context with their financial situation so that every student truly does have an equal opportunity to pursue a higher education.

The conflicts of standardized testing are a universal struggle for low-income students. With these students’ families making less money annually, it is disproportionately difficult for them to access the resources they need for studying. Whether it be a weekly tutor or merely an SAT prep book, it is simply harder to obtain. In this absence of aid, low-income students score statistically lower on standardized tests. According to a report done by the New York Times in 2019, students whose family income is $20,000 or less average an SAT score below 1000 while students whose family income is $200,000 or more average an SAT score of around 1300. This is a stark difference. 

While some may argue that if a student was smart enough, they would score highly on these tests regardless of their income, what they seem to look over is the explicit tie between income and education. Families who earn more each year are able to attend better schools, ultimately leaving their child with a stronger education; a strong education that many low-income students are not able to receive.

Because of something entirely out of these students’ hands, they are facing extraneous challenges in the college admissions process, especially in regards to applications for prestigious universities. It is no secret that standardized tests are inherently classist, but where can we start to level the playing field for college hopeful low-income students? The ball is in these institutions’ court. 

Colleges can stop de facto income discrimination in the admissions process by deliberately evaluating each student’s test score in context with their financial standings. Averaging out test scores coming from every socioeconomic background will not only benefit the students in allowing for a more equitable admissions chance, but will additionally benefit the school by providing them a more accurate picture of each student and their story. Students are not their test scores and students are not their income. 

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