Florida 11th graders could take a free college entrance exam starting next school year if the state covers the cost

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Florida 11th graders could take a national college entrance exam — either ACT or SAT — for free starting in the 2021-22 school year, if Gov. Ron DeSantis approves the legislation.

The Florida Legislature approved the effort in a bill this spring, and lawmakers recently sent the bill to DeSantis’ desk for consideration.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Manny Diaz, a Republican who represents part of Miami-Dade County, requires that public school districts select either the ACT or the SAT to administer the tests to their 11th graders.

The State Board of Education recommended $8 million for the initiative as part of the 2021-22 state budget, with taxpayer money going to ACT, Inc. and the College Board, which administers the SAT.

The exams are required for many but not all colleges and universities, as a part of the college admissions process.

These college entrance exams can be pricy, with the SAT costing $58 and the ACT costing at least $60, according to their websites. That price can multiply if a student choses to retake an exam for a better score.

Bob Schaeffer, Schaeffer, executive director of FairTest, which advocates for fair and educationally beneficial evaluations for schools, teachers and students, believes that students should be assessed for college-readiness in a “holistic” approach rather than by test scores.

“It’s the testing industry’s model – they figured out it’s much harder to sell tests individually to parents,” Schaeffer told the Phoenix. “So they do their lobbying in Tallahassee…and talk to legislators to divert taxpayer money to the testing companies.”

Some institutions are moving away from requiring SAT or ACT scores in their college applications.

A press release from FairTest noted that “the number of U.S. four-year colleges and universities that will not require students applying for fall 2022 admission to submit ACT/SAT scores now exceeds 1,500 schools.”

And because more colleges and universities are moving towards a “test-blind” application process, Schaeffer says that the Florida legislation is an “unnecessary diversion of taxpayer funds to the testing industry.”