Archive for October, 2009

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

by:  Thomas Nesbitt

It took over three years, a lot of research, many conversations, faculty/campus buy in, a twenty two month holding pattern and finally, a decision from SUNY to allow Potsdam to be the first state operated college or university to go test optional for most applicants. 

While normal circumstances dictate that we would have had word in time to change all of our brochures, website and talking points for our Admissions reps, this approval came after our brochures had been printed, after our web site upgrade and while Admissions reps were on the road.  Lets just say to implement a policy we hadn’t even looked at in almost two years has and will continue to be an adjustment for us. That said, the policy change has come with a lot of excitement and satisfaction in knowing we are doing the right thing for our students.

I remember when I arrived in Potsdam in the spring of 2000, we had just been in US News and the entering freshman was a big group.  We were looking to grow our enrollment and quality of our new students.  I settled in and started looking at data with our VP to determine what we needed to do.  What interested me most was how little standardized test scores did in predicting the likelihood of success at Potsdam.

After a few up and down years and a complete reorganization of our division, we rode the wave of high school graduate increases to 2006 when our new President took office.  Admissions was then reporting to Institutional Research and my supervisor, the President and I had a conversation about test optional Admissions.  The President showed moderate interest, told us to do the research and get back to him.  We did the research and were asked to present our finding to our campus Leadership Council.  Our findings were that, for SUNY Potsdam, standardized test (SAT/ACT) had little to no validity as a prediction of college success.  We found that the GPA and rigor of coursework taken were solid predictors of success.

The Leadership Council asked us to take our findings to our Faculty Senate Admissions Committee for possible policy formulation and, in early fall of 2007 the VP, President and I met with that group.  I was charged by the committee to propose a policy for consideration.

Two months and several revisions later, our policy was approved by the Admissions Committee and was slated for full Faculty Senate consideration in early December.  At the Senate meeting the discussion was collegial and both sides of the test optional spectrum were represented.  In the end with only two dissenting votes, the policy was passed.

The President forwarded our policy to SUNY System Administration where it sat for twenty two months awaiting approval.  Finally, in late September, we were given the thumbs up from SUNY to move ahead.

Three weeks have passed and we are feeling great about our decision.  The response from counselors and families has been overwhelmingly positive.  We are now reviewing applications and although it takes more time, we all feel it is the right move for a college who values creativity, collaborative teaching and learning and individual attention as part of what our President refers to as a handcrafted education.

My purpose for these ramblings was not simply to tell you of our policy shift.  I wanted to let you know that we did not enter into this decision lightly.  We took our time, did the research, worked with our Faculty and Administration and made the right decisions for SUNY Potsdam and our students.

Until next time…..