A Waco university’s controversial offer of a $300 bookstore credit to incoming freshmen to retake the SAT is something TCU would never allow, several university officials said.
Earlier this month, Baylor University’s student newspaper, The Lariat, reported that members of its incoming class who retook the SAT over the summer were being paid $300 in bookstore credit.
Ray Brown, TCU dean of admissions, said the incentive program was a misuse of testing because freshmen who retook the test were already admitted and didn’t need to take another test to get in. Brown said the program was a way to drive up the U.S. News & World Report’s college ranking.
Mike Scott, director of scholarships and student financial aid, wrote in an e-mail that there has never been a proposal at TCU for an incentive program like the one at Baylor.
Lori Fogleman, director of media communications for Baylor, said the school’s intention was to help applicants get more merit scholarships, but admits the university “goofed” when it came to awarding bookstore credit.
Fogleman said Baylor allowed admitted students to retake the tests up until the first day of classes for either semester until 2006, when the new chief financial officer added a testing deadline of Feb. 15. Fogleman said since then prospective students had expressed concerns that later testing dates had been a barrier from them qualifying for additional merit scholarships, and in the spring of 2008, the university saw there was merit aid still available.
Baylor extended the deadline for submitting SAT scores in mid-May to include the last national testing day, June 7, after high school seniors had already graduated, Fogleman said. The enrollment management committee decided to offer the $300 bookstore credit to motivate students to retake the test, Fogleman said. If the students’ scores improved by 50 points or more, they would receive a $1,000 merit scholarship, but in some cases, the students improved so much that they moved into another scholarship category, Fogleman said.
“In hindsight, we really regret having the cash incentive for students to retake the SAT this summer, and we understand the criticism of the action,” Fogleman said. “We won’t again offer any cash incentive for students to retake the SAT.”
A member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, Baylor is being investigated to determine whether there was a violation of the organization’s Statement of Principles of Good Practice, said Scott Anderson, chair of the NACAC Admission Practices Committee. He said the investigation will be confidential despite its high-profile nature.
“In reference to the discussion we have seen here, I think NACAC members are right to debate the use and misuse of standardized testing, especially in light of the testing commission’s recent report,” Anderson wrote in an e-mail. “As for potential SPGP violations, please know the process we have in place is designed to handle all allegations in the same manner: thoughtfully, deliberately, and quietly.”
Georgia Green, professor of music education and chair of the faculty senate for Baylor, said she was surprised when she first found out about the program in June. The faculty senate passed a resolution to decry the program and to suggest it be discontinued. Even if the students were to improve their SAT grades and receive the scholarships, Green said the practice is wrong.
“If it is true that what Baylor did is a violation of anybody’s code of ethics, then that’s obviously very serious for our university,” Green said. “That’s something that no one would want for Baylor, and I would hope that the administration would take whatever steps needed to be taken to correct that.”