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Kansas Could Spend $2.8M For Free College Admission Tests

Alberto G.
flickr Creative Commons

Kansas could soon join a growing number of states nationwide in providing free college admission testing to high school students.

A provision in the new school finance bill passed Sunday would set aside $2.8 million for one ACT test and three WorkKeys vocational assessments, per student statewide.

When sifting through applications, universities look closely at the ACT scores of applicants, and those with no score to show stand at a disadvantage. With the cost of an ACT at $62.50, writing portion included, some Kansans can't buy the chance they need to get noticed by universities.

Financially challenged students face plenty of hurdles to getting a college education, and this provision could mean one less, Sen. Molly Baumgardner said.

The Louisburg Republican has been pursuing free ACT testing for Kansas since her appointment to the Senate Education Committee three years ago, she said.

Testing well can open all sorts of doors for students, such as scholarships, she said. Testing poorly is helpful in its own way too, Baumgardner said, showing students where they need to improve before graduating. Either way, taking the ACT will encourage students to think realistically about their futures in a way other tests will not, she said.

According to the ACT organization, 18 states, including Oklahoma and Nebraska, provide ACT testing to students free of charge.

Republican Sen. Bruce Givens of El Dorado expressed concern over the provision during a Senate meeting, saying kids are already inundated with tests and the last thing they need is another.

Baumgardner said in an interview that the ACT would be a good replacement for federally mandated testing, as it provides a more holistic assessment. While, there are currently no plans to phase out federal testing in favor of the ACT, Baumgardner said it is an alternative that states should seriously consider.

In 2017, 60 percent of high school graduates took the ACT nationwide. In Kansas, that number was 73 percent, according to the state Department of Education. Baumgardner wants to see 100 percent.

Givens said total participation will lower the state's average ACT score.

If the ACT average goes down as a result of increased participation, Baumgardner welcomes it.

"I don't think we should be afraid of honest outcomes," she said.

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