Test scores rise, college standards follow suit

By: Micah Price ~Staff Writer~

Most Xavier students who ask their parents or grandparents what college was like when they attended versus what it is like now will get the answer that school, in general, is harder than when the previous generation attended. But have students at colleges and universities in the tri-state area, or even nationally, become smarter?

The University of Cincinnati’s incoming class of 6,900 students has an average GPA nearly a tenth of a point higher than this year’s current sophomores had going into their first year. The story is the same elsewhere. According to The Enquirer, the average student at Northern Kentucky University now boasts an ACT score of 25, up from 22 just a decade ago.

So are college students getting smarter? Or is it becoming harder to get into college?

Nat Smitobol, a college admissions counselor at IvyWise, formerly of New York University, thinks that colleges should be thought of as businesses. “The bigger the class, the more surplus of money they have,” Smitobol said.

Having more, smarter students could potentially drive up the rankings, such as those in US NEWS, that a school can brag about. This, in turn, could spark more applications to a particular school, leading to bigger classes and more money for institutions of higher learning.

Xavier is no exception to the national trend, with the incoming class of 2020 having slightly higher SAT scores than last year’s first-years. In addition, this year marks the eighth year in a row Xavier has welcomed a freshman class of more than 1,000 students. Xavier also welcomes a diverse first-year class, with over half of the students coming from out of state, double the number of international students and 20 percent of the first-year class identifying as Hispanic, African-American, Asian or another ethnicity.

Having a smarter, more diverse class of students can be good for any university, but as with Xavier, higher test scores and elevated rankings of any kind make a school more popular, giving it the option to be more exclusive in admissions, thereby continuing the cycle.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are 4,726 Title IV-eligible, degree-granting institutions in the United States as opposed to only 1,000 a century ago. It is possible that college students are not necessarily smarter than they used to be, just that there is more opportunity for higher education, and the spectrum of difficulty has only just begun to trend upward.