ACT and College Board to Offer Free Test-Score Reports for Needy Students

Testing companies get a lot of scrutiny — and scorn. But sometimes they do something that’s bound to make people happy.

No, really. On Wednesday the ACT announced that, as of next September, it will provide free score reports to low-income students who register for the ACT examination with a fee waiver. Those test takers will be able to send up to 20 free score reports, which will never expire, for each exam they take. Right now, all students can send their ACT scores to four colleges or scholarship agencies, free of charge, up to five days after taking the exam; each additional score report costs $13.

Hours after the ACT’s announcement, the College Board made one of its own: Starting next spring, the organization will provide unlimited SAT score reports for low-income students who take the SAT. Currently, the College Board sends four score reports at no charge up to nine days after the test (and four more, good at any time, for students who get a fee waiver). Each additional report now costs $12.

Those fees might not sound like a lot of money in some households. Among low-income applicants, though, the costs “can overwhelm not just students but those trying to help them as well,” as a recent article in The Atlantic explains. That’s why many college-access organizations have long urged testing companies to waive score-report fees for all low-income students, whether they’re sending five such reports or 25.

Perhaps the move was inevitable. After all, many colleges now let applicants report their own ACT and SAT scores, a recent trend that’s been widely applauded. Still, among admissions officials and college counselors, the immediate response to Wednesday’s twin announcements could be summed up in a word rarely associated with standardized tests: Cool!

Eric Hoover writes about admissions trends, enrollment-management challenges, and the meaning of Animal House, among other issues. He’s on Twitter @erichoov, and his email address is [email protected]