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North Dakota higher ed board removes standardized testing requirements for university admission

Board members voted unanimously in favor of removing the testing requirement for admission at their regular monthly meeting on Thursday, May 26. The policy will go into effect on Aug. 1, 2023.

North Dakota University System
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GRAND FORKS — Members of the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education voted to remove the requirement of standardized tests, like the ACT and SAT, for people seeking admission to the state’s colleges and universities.

Board members voted unanimously in favor of removing the testing requirement for admission at their regular monthly meeting on Thursday, May 26. The policy will go into effect on Aug. 1, 2023. One of the main reasons for the removal of the requirement is to make state higher education institutions more competitive with testing-optional institutions in surrounding states.

“If approved, your proposed changes today would reduce barriers to entry and enable our North Dakota University System institutions, and particularly those in eastern North Dakota with large numbers of Minnesota students, to be as competitive as their counterparts who have already adopted test-optional policies in their institution, their state or their system,” said Lisa Johnson, vice chancellor for academic and student affairs.

Thursday's move saw NDUS schools join about 2,000 accredited, four-year colleges across the country that no longer require the submission of test scores. The new policy means a greater weight for consideration of admission will be placed on a student’s grade point average.

Johnson noted that submitting standardized test scores will still be a part of determining state academic scholarships for those who apply for them. She encouraged people to take the tests anyway, on the chance they withdraw from an NDUS school to go to an out-of-state school.


Board members took an abbreviated approach in removing the requirement, by, at Johnson’s request, passing it on its first reading and waiving the second reading. Johnson said schools in the state system need time to update their marketing materials, and need to more broadly communicate the change.

“By approving the policy today with the effective date, the NDUS recruitment staff can begin revising their recruitment, outreach materials (and begin) reaching out to their contacts, the K- 12 counselors, students, parents and others of this pending change,” she said.

Earlier in the coronavirus pandemic, board members issued a waiver to NDUS institutions that put a pause on requiring test scores for admission.

Board members can reconsider the policy change at a later date, should they so wish.

The new policy largely is related to undergraduates. Students moving on the graduate or professional levels of education, law school at UND, for example, will still need to take the relevant test for admission.

Gracie Lian, the outgoing student member of the board, praised the decision saying some students simply don’t test well, or don’t have access to costly study guides or courses that prepare a student to take the SAT or ACT tests.

UND President Andrew Armacost called the move an important step in remaining competitive.

“If our neighboring states are offering the same test-optional policy, we would be at a huge admissions disadvantage if we didn't do the same,” Armacost said.


Not everyone was thrilled about removing the test requirement. President Stephen Easton, of Dickinson State University said there was not unanimity across state institutions about the policy. Of particular concern may be the migration of students to the larger universities, from the smaller colleges.

In other SBHE news, members:

  • Elected board member Tim Mihalick to take over as vice chair of the board. The position was open following the resignation of Jill Louters, on May 13. Mihalick will serve the remainder of Louters’ term as vice chair which runs until the end of June. He will then serve another one-year term as vice chair.
  • Reelected Casey Ryan to serve as board chair.
This year Dickinson High School has implemented a program called SMORE Time. It's a period is geared toward mastery of essential learning.

Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at akurtz@gfherald.com, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

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