Posted on July 11, 2011

Holy Names Offers Admission without Taking SAT

Nanette Asimov, San Francisco Chronicle, July 10, 2011

How many kids would be tempted to go to college if they didn’t have to take the SAT and if, by ninth grade, they were guaranteed admission as long as they kept up a B-minus average in high school?

Oh–and no college application essay would be required.

“We don’t know. That’s the most popular question,” said Brian O’Rourke, dean of admissions and recruitment at Holy Names University in Oakland, which is making that very offer to high school freshmen in two East Bay school districts attended mainly by low-income students of color–Oakland and West Contra Costa Unified.

Tuition tops $30,000 at the tiny, private university on 60 wooded acres in the Oakland hills. But students who take the deal would get a discount of $9,000 to $18,000. Depending on financial need, state and federal grants could cover the rest.


O’Rourke and Holy Names’ president, William Hynes, believe their offer will help more students get to college. Associate Superintendent Wendell Greer of West Contra Costa thinks they’re right.

“This program eliminates any excuse,” Greer said. “What you have here is a pathway to college for any child that walks through the door, regardless of economic status, gender, documented or undocumented. And that’s unprecedented.”


A 2009 study from Princeton University found that when colleges make the SAT optional, enrollment of black and Latino students goes up. Hundreds of colleges are dropping the SAT, says the National Center for Fair and Open Testing.


Although the Princeton study confirmed that the SAT does predict success in the first year of college, some campuses–including Holy Names–prefer to judge achievement by performance in college-prep high school classes.

“We know that students who come from urban schools tend to score a little lower on standardized tests,” O’Rourke said. So instead of the SAT, students will have to maintain a 2.7 grade-point average–B-minus–in college-prep classes, known as the “A-to-G requirements.”