Last month, Arkansas Tech University announced that it would now be focusing on grade point average instead of ACT or SAT scores for freshman academic scholarship applicants. This change will be adjusted to suit first-year students who have already accepted scholarships and those eligible for new scholarships.
The Arka Tech Editorial Board has agreed that this change is good but that the change needs to be phased out instead of transitioning this sharply.
We believe a transition to GPA will provide more opportunities for higher education to a larger population of students. However, we think that there are a lot of complications that need to be considered while making this change. We believe that standardized tests are not accurate representations of students’ academic abilities, especially when so many students suffer from test-related anxiety.
This lack of GPA standardization across the state is something to think about when making this transition for scholarships. Standardized tests may not accurately represent a student, but they are something that GPAs are not: standardized. Many schools use different grading systems. A 4.0 at one school may be harder or easier to achieve at another school. Some schools have strong AP programs where the grades are weighted.
On the other end of that scale, courses at more prominent schools may be more academically rigorous than at other schools. This could create a disparity in fairness when administering scholarships. In comparison, smaller schools that may not be able to afford the program do not have that benefit.
Arka Tech also finds the distribution of scholarship money to be questionable. The gap between the highest scholarship and the other scholarships is wide. This also ties back to the issue with GPA standardization. A student who has a reasonable GPA of 3.5 would be getting 3,000 dollars, whereas they could have gotten more with their ACT score. The scale simply needs to be evaluated before fully transitioning.
Some current students have also voiced resentment. They feel that if they had had the chance to use their GPA, they would have way more scholarship money. However, they are stuck with their ACT scholarship while new students are given a better chance.
The transition also needs to allow time for incoming students to adjust. A current high school Junior who has spent all their time more worried about their ACT score than their GPA may not get the amount of money offered that they were looking for. They cannot fix their GPA at that point. Because of that, they may decide to attend a different college than Arkansas Tech.
For these reasons, the Arka Tech Editorial board believes it is important to make a gradual adjustment instead of a sharp change to the way Tech handles academic scholarships.