Education school considers more GRE-optional admissions

Media Credit: Paige James | Hatchet Photographer

Michael Feuer, the dean of the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, said officials are considering making more programs in the school test-optional.

The Graduate School of Education and Human Development is looking to make more programs test-optional, the school’s dean said.

GSEHD Dean Michael Feuer said the change would waive the Graduate Record Examinations requirement in admissions. Faculty said the change could be beneficial, since a test doesn’t necessarily reflect a student’s ability and dropping the requirement could attract more applicants.

Feuer declined to comment on which programs could become GRE-optional. He said the special education and disability studies graduate degrees in GSEHD are already test-optional and require interviews instead. The higher education administration program waives the GRE requirement for students with a GPA of 3.3 or greater, he said.

Officials have also made other changes to programs in the school like reducing the number of credits required to earn a master’s degree, Feuer said.

Feuer also said that the school has a “holistic” admissions process that considers factors like undergraduate course work, test scores, experience and recommendations.

“From our experience, there are many factors that determine a student’s success in graduate school, and no single factor is sufficient as a predictor,” Feuer said.

Last summer, the University announced that undergraduate admissions would no longer require the ACT or SAT – a change that came out of a task force focused on making GW more accessible to low-income students.

Feuer, who is a co-chair of the group, said the shift to a test-optional admissions process benefits GW and students who apply, but the graduate level has more specific qualifications for degree tracks.

“There are many factors to consider at the graduate level and the specific academic skills required for specific programs,” Feuer said. “We work with prospective students on an individual basis to help them understand the application process for each graduate program.”

GSEHD enrollment increased this year, one of the first times in recent years. After enrollment dropped by more than 20 percent, GSEHD implemented new programs through its strategic plan, restructuring and accelerating six master’s programs.

Sylven Beck, an associate professor of curriculum and pedagogy, said more programs are considering going GRE-optional to increase enrollment. She said that the GRE can be a “stumbling block” for international students who might otherwise be qualified for programs.

“The research is out there that the GREs and many of these standardized tests that we give can be culturally biased and it is difficult sometimes for our international students,” Beck said.

The GRE is optional in the school’s elementary education program and has been for about two years, which has helped attract applicants, Beck said. She said considering other elements of an application – like a resume, transcript or writing sample – can give faculty a better understanding of the quality of a candidate.

“What you do in four years is a lot more valuable to me than what you do in four hours,” Beck said.

The GRE is used in more than 160 countries, according to Education Testing Services, which created and administers the exam. More and more programs are dropping the GRE requirement, according to U.S. News & World Report.

The early childhood education graduate degree at Towson University has been GRE-optional since it started about 20 years ago.

Stephen Schroth, an associate professor of early childhood education at Towson University, said admissions officers rely heavily on a candidate’s personal statement, letters of recommendation and transcript.

“For the purposes of what we are looking for, we feel that it would limit the pool of candidates, because the vast majority of our candidates are practitioners in Maryland,” Schroth said.

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