Study Finds That Elite Colleges and Universities Are Relying More on High SAT Scores in Deciding Which Students to Admit

New data in an analysis conducted by Catherine L. Horn of the University of Houston and John T. Yun of the University of California at Santa Barbara finds that the nation’s most selective colleges and universities are increasingly relying on SAT scores to make their admissions decisions.

The data showed that in 2007 half of the nation’s 30 highest-ranked colleges and universities enrolled a freshman class where more than half the entering students had a verbal SAT score of at least 700. In 1979, according to the study, only one of the 30 schools had a median verbal SAT score above 700. At Yale the percentage of entering students who had SAT scores above 700 increased from 33 percent in 1989 to 78 percent in 2007.

Data from the College Board shows that only 1,176 African-American students nationwide scored at least 700 on the verbal section of the SAT test. In contrast, there were more than 48,000 white students who scored at this level.

In the five years since the 2003 Grutter decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in which Sandra Day O’Connor stated that in 25 years there would no longer be any legal justification for the racial preferences the ruling permitted, there has been no improvement in the racial scoring gap on the SAT. It appears now that the racial gap will not close over the next two decades. Therefore, 20 years from now, if selective colleges and universities continue to rely on SAT scores to select their students, it will be next to impossible for them to maintain their current level of racial diversity.