Georgia’s University System’s testing requirements for non-native English speakers

The University System of Georgia (USG) has recently toughened admissions requirements for non-native English speakers. The revision has raised concerns of whether the change is biased against immigrants and non-native English speakers.

Robert Schaeffer, the Public Education Director at FairTest, a national organization that strives to work against inaccuracy and misuse of testing, believes that by adding these requirements, it could impact qualified students from being admitted.

“When you raise the bar on any requirement you limit the pool of applicants who are qualified,” Schaeffer said. “The question is whether that decision to raise the bar is justified educationally or academically.”

According to Schaeffer, he has heard no reason to justify adding testing requirements. He believes it is an obligation for policy makers to disclose evidence that shows how these testing requirements would improve overall educational quality.

“If the University System of Georgia could show students with lower English language test scores who are not performing adequately in college or graduate school [increasing the test score requirement], [that] would be an argument. But simply raising the test score requirement without evidence of why is not fair,” Schaeffer said. “It very well could be biased towards applicants whose first language is not English.”

Another problem Schaeffer sees with the tests is that they don’t necessarily prove if a student is qualified or not, suggesting that if their goal is to improve educational quality, testing is not the most efficient way to do it.

“The entire county K-12 through college seems to believe test scores measure merit and they don’t,” Schaeffer said. “Test scores measure how well you take a test. And whether that test score correlates with the actual performance you want to improve is an open question.”

According to Charles Sutlive, Vice Chancellor for USG’s Board of Regents, the admission requirements how being implemented for non-native English speakers are nothing new.

“The criteria that we are implementing are the same ones that have been in effect for the past seven years across all University System of Georgia institutions,” Sutlive said. “Perimeter College, as GPC, had not been following the guidelines, and it is now doing so as a part of the new Georgia State University.”

It’s a policy that Tim Brotherton, Georgia State Associate Professor of English as a Second Language, believes Georgia State has begun to implement because they are afraid of the backlash they will receive if they do not.

“I think [Georgia State] doesn’t want to advocate for these students because they’re afraid of a political backlash,” Brotherton said.