Applicants for the Colorado School of Public Health’s graduate programs won’t have to sweat their test scores anymore—oh, and they can save a few hundred bucks while they’re at it.
The school—a collaborative institution formed in 2008 by the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Colorado State University, and the University of Northern Colorado—announced that, effective immediately, applicants are no longer required to submit a Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score to apply for a Master of Public Health or Doctor of Public Health graduate program.
Any students applying between now and January 15 for the 2019–20 application cycle will have the choice to include a GRE score—which is encouraged if, for example, their undergraduate GPA wasn’t strong and their GRE score shows promise—but they will not be penalized if they choose not to include a score.
The decision comes amid a national wave of graduate programs electing to drop their GRE admission requirement, and last year, CU’s Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department voted to scrap the test for its programs. According to Kaplan Test Prep, the GRE—a four-hour standardized test—measures a student’s ability to “analyze and evaluate written material, think critically, and solve problems.” But the Colorado School of Public Health also held its own internal study of the usefulness of their required application materials in 2015, which proved that the GRE was not an accurate predictor of a student’s success in their professional graduate programs.
Beyond the lack of predictability and steep cost for students to prepare for and take the test (the exam fee alone is just over $200), the GRE has also come under question for proving to be unintentionally biased based on socioeconomic status, race, and gender. According to the the Educational Testing Service, which administers the GRE, women reportedly score on average 80 points lower than men, and black students score 200 points lower than white students.
“This test is really biased towards people from higher socioeconomic backgrounds,” says Lori Crane, the associate dean for academic affairs at the Colorado School of Public Health. “We believe that training students who come from the communities where the need is greatest are probably going to be most effective in solving the problems of those communities. So the test is sort of biasing us in the wrong direction for finding the best people to solve public health problems.”
Crane also says the test’s quantitative section relies almost entirely on high school math—subjects like algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. And unless you can recall the last time your doctor used sine, cosine, and tangent to narrow down a diagnosis, it becomes clear how the test remains fairly impractical for evaluating public health potential and favors students who had the extra exposure to specific subjects in high school (or have the time to relearn those subjects before the exam).
“Students in disadvantaged areas are going to have less opportunities in [high] school probably—there is bigger class sizes, they may have more turnover of teachers in those neighborhoods—so they’re probably not getting as good an education,” Crane says, adding that some underfunded high schools might not even offer specific math classes like trigonometry. “Starting in preschool, they’re probably not getting as good an education.”
And while those factors imply an even larger set of issues to tackle within the education system, the Colorado School of Public Health is hoping to at least help eliminate some of that bias in higher education opportunities. Crane says Hispanic and black students are currently underrepresented in the student body, and that they are eager to reach more of these communities. “We would like to see the population in the school or the student population reflects the population of Colorado—or more broadly, the population of the United States.”