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Message on the cap of a Virginia Tech graduate during the college of engineering's graduation commencement in 2007.

Virginia Tech is waiving its SAT and ACT testing requirements for next year’s applicants.

The university announced Wednesday that it is making its admissions process test-optional for the 2020-21 admissions cycle, meaning the hallmark college entry exams are not required. Also Wednesday, the College Board, which administers the SAT, said it is canceling the testing scheduled for June and could opt for a virtual SAT if schools don’t reopen in the fall.

In a news release, Virginia Tech said that no advantage or special consideration will be given to students who take the tests and no penalty will be administered for applicants who choose not to take the tests.

“We realize these are challenging times for everyone, including students who’ve been offered admission and prospective students considering applying to the university,” said Juan Espinoza, Tech’s director of undergraduate admissions. “We don’t want to add any more stress to an already difficult situation.”

Espinoza added: “There is so much uncertainty out there right now, and students don’t need more to worry about.”

According to a list compiled by the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, roughly 50 colleges across the U.S. have dropped the SAT or ACT requirement because of the pandemic.

Tech said that it will accept the revised grading policies that high schools have put in place with the classes shifting online.

Northam ‘confident’ schools open in fall

Students could take the SAT at home if schools don’t reopen in the fall. Gov. Ralph Northam said he is confident schools will reopen if state residents continue to practice social distancing.

The College Board announced Wednesday that it is canceling the SAT testing scheduled for June 6. It had already canceled other tests this spring because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, there will be weekend SAT tests every month, starting Aug. 29, with the addition of a September testing to go along with previously scheduled tests on Oct., 3, Nov. 7 and Dec. 5 “if it’s safe from a public health standpoint.”

“We know students and educators are worried about how the coronavirus may disrupt the college admissions process, and we want to do all we can to help alleviate that anxiety during this very demanding time,” said College Board CEO David Coleman.

In the “unlikely” event that schools do not reopen in the fall, the College Board said Wednesday that it will provide a digital SAT for students to take at home. The New York-based organization has done so this year for Advanced Placement tests.

“Like the pencil-and-paper test, a digital, remote version of the SAT would measure what students are learning in school and what they need to know to be successful in college,” the College Board said.

The ACT also announced Wednesday that it’s launching an online testing option.

The organization is still planning tests in September, October and December, but it also now plans on having an option where students can take the test at home on a computer. That option is expected to launch in the late fall or early winter.

“During this time of crisis due to COVID-19, we understand that students need more flexibility in taking the ACT test, and these steps are intended to help students stay on track with college planning and career exploration,” said ACT CEO Marten Roorda. “We aim to ensure to all those who want to take the test are provided with a safe environment and the test options to do so.”

In a statement, the College Board said it “fully supports” college admissions offices, such as Virginia Tech’s, that have opted for test-optional applications because of the pandemic.

“Our commitment to students is to give them as many opportunities as we can to show their strengths to admissions officers, while relying on the guidance of public health officials,” Coleman said.

Students who had already registered for the June SAT test and juniors who have not taken the SAT will have early access to register for the August, September, and October tests, the College Board said.

The organization also said that, assuming schools reopen in the fall, it will offer the SAT in schools this fall to replace the SAT School Day normally held in the spring.

Northam said on a town hall Tuesday with WJLA, the ABC affiliate in Washington, that he is “confident” that Virginia schools, which are closed for the rest of this academic year, will reopen if Virginians continue to practice social distancing and “continue to do what we’re doing.”

Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane is serving as the co-chairman of a new regional Education Recovery Task Force to help states determine how to reopen K-12 schools, among other things.

The task force, announced Wednesday, will operate under the Southern Regional Education Board and will have representatives from 16 states.

Tech announces virtual commencement

Virginia Tech has announced details for its virtual commencement next month, including speeches from former football defensive coordinator Bud Foster, Miss America 2020 Camille Schrier and poet Nikki Giovanni.

The online graduation event is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on May 15. The ceremony, the university said, will also include speeches from President Tim Sands and student speakers, among others.

“Our graduates have demonstrated their ability to take on a global challenge and succeed. They have shown a deep commitment to the well-being of our community, which we will forever appreciate,” Sands said in a statement. “We will do all we can to give the Class of 2020 the honor and celebration they deserve.”

Tech canceled its May commencement last month, as have colleges across Virginia and the U.S.

The university said in a news release that this year’s graduating class is also invited to participate in formal commencement ceremonies in December or next May. There will also be a senior tailgate and free attendance to graduating students and at least two guests to Tech’s Sept. 26 home football game, “conditions permitting.”

The May 15 virtual graduation will stream on Tech’s website and will be available on-demand afterward, according to the news release.

jmattingly@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6012

Twitter: @jmattingly306

State Government Reporter

Justin Mattingly covers Virginia politics and policy. He previously covered education. A northern New York native and Syracuse University alumnus, he's worked at the RTD since 2017. You can follow him on Twitter at @jmattingly306.

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