Students, Parents Fear Impact of College Admissions Test Cancelations

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COVID-19 has forced many testing centers to cancel testing dates for college admission exams nationwide. In South Florida, some parents fear the lack of testing will impact scholarships and college admissions.

The ACT test website crashed when it opened registration for Fall testing dates. Frustrated parents took to social media, one parent calling the process a “dumpster fire of registration.”

It’s the latest saga in what has been a frustrating experience for many students looking to take the exam.

“There were kids who got the chance to test and there were some that didn’t,” mother Maria Hemelberg said. Hemelberg told NBC 6 that her son, a 2020 high school graduate, needed to retake the SAT or ACT exam to qualify for the Bright Futures Scholarship.

But after March, the College Board stopped administering the SAT exam, and the ACT exam faced cancellations at several testing location across South Florida.

“There is no way that a testing center let them know a day before that they weren’t going to be doing the testing,” Hemelberg said. Her son found out just one day before the exam that his testing site had cancelled its July testing date.

She says he was able to test at another location, but worries others students weren’t so lucky.

In a statement to NBC 6 Responds, a spokesperson for ACT said the following:

“We know that more than 88,000 students successfully tested at more than 1,100 sites on July 18, while adhering to COVID-19 public health guidelines and social distancing guidelines and procedures for the health and safety of examinees. Around 1,400 examinees (at approximately 21 sites) were not able to test. We know that some sites cancelled up until late Friday night, including some we were unaware of, resulting in unprocessed communications to students. We are truly sorry that this happened, and we will do everything we can to provide solutions to students affected by this situation, including offering a makeup test date where we can.

"Our top priority is to provide testing opportunities for all who wish to pursue a path to college and career. We know we have work to do to earn back trust and provide a positive experience for all who engage with us. We will follow up directly with students who were impacted by same-day cancellations so they may receive refunds and plan for future opportunities to test.”

NBC 6 also reached out to College Board, the company that administers the SAT exam. They provided the following statement: “Due to the rapidly evolving situation around the coronavirus, the College Board was unable to administer the SAT exam after the March SAT administration. The College Board is planning to provide weekend SAT or SAT Subject Test administrations every month through the end of the calendar year, beginning in August.

"This includes a new SAT administration on September 26. We will also add a test date in January 2021 if there is demand for it. Our top priority is the health and safety of students and educators. Please note that as the coronavirus (covid-19) pandemic continues to evolve, we will continue to monitor and provide updates if circumstances change closer to the test dates.”

Barry Liebowitz with International College Counselors says it’s a confusing time for students and parents.

“It’s been a frustrating, scary time for the student because there has been no direct answers from all of the colleges, about whether they are going to take the student that didn’t take their test earlier,” Liebowitz said.

Liebowitz added that the lack of testing has caused confusion for many students looking to submit applications for admission or scholarships.

“A lot of them that would have been a point away, or 50 points away, didn’t get the opportunity to reach that, which could cost tens of thousands of dollars for students that are staying in state,” he said.

The Florida Department of Education’s deadline for students to submit test scores to qualify for the Bright Futures Scholarship was July 31st. When asked if this deadline would be extended, a spokesperson with FDOE sent the following statement:

“Since the inception of Florida’s response to COVID-19, wherever possible we have been extremely proactive in making numerous accommodations that have benefitted Florida’s nearly 3.3 million public and private school students, their families, their teachers and their schools throughout Florida. In each case, we’ve undertaken careful legal analyses to determine the extent of our authority, as granted by state and federal laws and the emergency authorities of the Governor and Division of Emergency Management."

"There are some instances where the department was able to unilaterally suspend a statute – such as the department’s cancelation of state testing for Spring 2020. Unfortunately, this is not a case with Bright Futures in which the Department cannot comprehensively control this issue, because it is funded by state lottery trust funds. The allocation of state dollars is a legislative prerogative and the Department does not have the authority to make unilateral decisions in this instance. For example, if we act in a way that impacts the appropriation of these funds now that would also impact the availability of funds for future scholarships."

"What we were able to do was provide accommodations for volunteer service hours and extend the deadline in which a student had to sit for a test, thereby allowing seniors more time and opportunity to earn those qualifications and count them towards college or university admissions for this coming school year. We worked with ACT to open additional testing sites in school districts and colleges, and ACT waived registration fees for the June and July tests and they extended their registration deadlines. We also encouraged the College Board, the private entity that oversees the SAT, to conduct testing before the July 31 deadline. Previously, the College Board let us know that they were not going to conduct testing in June or July.”

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