Scholarship change sets WKU apart from other state universities

President Timothy Caboni holds a press conference to announce a change in enrollment and scholarship requirements for incoming students as well as expansion of existing scholarships.

Jack Dobbs

WKU’s new criteria for freshman scholarships will look to set the university apart from other schools in the state, as it makes WKU the first university in Kentucky to ditch ACT score requirements for most merit-based scholarships.

Scholarships are currently awarded based on an ACT score and GPA calculation. Under the new system, scholarships will be awarded primarily on GPA. Students scoring a 28 or above on the ACT can compete for larger funds, according to an infographic.

This change in criteria, coupled with a $5.2 million increase in scholarship funding, puts WKU in position to reward scholarships to a much larger portion of future freshman classes.

“Last year, 39% of the freshman class was eligible for scholarships,” Caboni said in the press conference on Sept. 24. “This year, we’re anticipating 80% of a first-year class will receive some sort of scholarship aid. That is a remarkable investment.”

WKU Media Relations Director Bob Skipper said this is the first time a university in Kentucky will be making this change.

“I’m not interested in recruiting freshmen anymore,” Caboni said. “I’m interested in recruiting future four-year-degree holders, and we’re going to put all of our efforts toward that.”

Currently, the two largest state universities in Kentucky, the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, require a minimum ACT score when awarding scholarships.

“We’re going to continue to work hard to ensure that the WKU experience is affordable and accessible no matter someone’s economic condition,” Caboni said.

For their lowest academic scholarship, the University of Kentucky requires a minimum ACT score of 26, according to UK’s scholarship page. The University of Louisville also requires an ACT score of 26, according to UofL’s scholarship page.

Some colleges have implemented a “test-optional policy,” which abandons a standardized testing requirement for admissions, according to U.S. News and World Report. One such university is the University of Chicago.

According to University of Chicago’s website, students can provide a standardized test score if they wish, but it is only required for applicants who live outside the United States.

A 2018 study by Steven T. Syverson, Valerie W. Franks and William C. Hiss over the effectiveness of “test-optional policies” saw an average increase of 1,926 applications among 28 participating universities after those universities enacted a TOP, with public institutions seeing an 11% increase and private schools seeing a 29% increase in applicants.

Additionally, the study found the quality of the enrolled student body was not affected by removing a test requirement.

“Applicant average high school grades and SAT scores increased from pre-policy to post-policy at all but one of our institutions,” the study stated.

The College Board, the entity that administers the ACT and other standardized tests, remained adamant that standardized testing and grade review is the best way to predict student success in college, according to a 2018 article from Inside Higher Ed.

“We must do things that make us both more attractive and more affordable,” Caboni said.

Reporter Jack Dobbs can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jackrdobbs.