The Oregon Institute of Technology will soon be the first public university in the state to make standardized test scores optional for admission.

Starting in Fall 2021, incoming freshmen applying to Oregon Tech will not have to submit SAT or ACT scores.

The move is one the university has been looking into for months. After reviewing retention and student success data, university officials said grade point average is a better indicator for a student’s academic performance.

“The test score by itself wasn’t really reflecting whether the student would be successful,” said Erik Johnson, director of admissions for the university. “For many students in the admissions process, the test score being on file could be a hurdle for them getting a decision in a timely manner.”

Nationally, more universities are moving away from test score requirements. Several private institutions in Oregon are test-optional, including Lewis & Clark College, Linfield College and Multnomah University.

Johnson said for universities serving Oregon students, a test-optional approach to admission could make way for more accurate admission methods.

“We have a great opportunity in our K-12 system with so many students taking college-level courses, but the conversion of those same students to a four-year bachelor’s degree has been a challenge,” Johnson said.

Instead of using test scores to determine admission, the university will use a college prep GPA model based on 15 courses including math, English and science. This new approach is more academically-focused than a cumulative GPA, which includes all electives and languages.

Johnson also hopes the new criteria will target potential Oregon Tech students who may not test well, or have the resources to pay for courses that prepare them for standardized tests.

“In particular, those students who have an interest in the [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] field, have taken a lot of lab sciences, and also those students who really fit with our demographic middle of the admit pool,” Johnson said.

Johnson says he’s talked to peers at other Oregon universities about how well a standardized test score predicts a student’s “academic fitness.” Some Oregon schools, including Western Oregon University, do not require test scores if students meet a certain GPA.

The Oregon Tech admissions team has started communicating the change to high school counselors, and Johnson said they’re supportive. The new criteria could benefit students unable to take a standardized test in the ideal time frame for college application deadlines.

College board exam scores can still be submitted for admission requirements, and they’ll count for placement in classes. Students who do not submit test scores will be placed in the lowest level courses.

“For some students, the option to use the test in the admissions process will benefit them,” Johnson said. “For other students, it may not, but it certainly won’t be used to penalize any student in the admission process.”