NYC’s new free SAT plan transcends class limitations

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The Tartan Board recently published a commentary on a study from the University of Washington which revealed that in the 50 most populated American cities, less than one third of high school students take either the SAT or ACT. This indicates the disturbing influence that class and race have on access to education, and therefore a well-paying job, in America.

This week, however, New York City took an encouraging step toward bridging this gap. Beginning in spring 2017, city public schools will offer the SAT for free to high school juniors during the school day. Normally the test occurs on weekends in variable locations and costs $54.50.Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced the change on Monday to kick off College Application Week, a national program that encourages students to apply to college by offering them the chance to speak with admissions officers and receive free advice on application essays. Once the program is implemented, it will not be mandatory to take the exams, but giving students the opportunity to do so in a comfortable atmosphere at no cost will break down a barrier that stands in many students’ ways to higher education.

By making the test the default, participation will increase for students who would not otherwise choose to spend the money and the Saturday morning on it. But then, by already fulfilling a requirement for many college applications, higher education may seem more realistic — especially for students who don’t expect to earn a degree. Some institutions offer scholarships based on performance, which could ease the financial burden even further.

This program is only expected to cost New York City an annual $1.8 million per year, which is barely a penny in the grand scheme of the city’s budget of $75 billion. We hope that other cities in America will follow New York’s lead and implement similar programs in their public schools. If they succeed, an encouraging next step would be to offer free or reduced-price SAT preparation classes to help students maximize their potential.