Testing, Ranking and College Performance: Does High School Matter?

Sunny Xinchun Niu, Princeton University
Marta Tienda, Princeton University

Using administrative data for five Texas universities that differ in selectivity, this study evaluates the predictive power of two key indicators used by college admissions officers to predict college success: high school class rank and standardized test scores. The empirical analyses warrant three conclusions. First, consistent with many other studies, we demonstrate that high school class rank is a better predictor of college performance than standardized test scores. Second, at all universities considered, test score advantages do not insulate low ranked students from underperformance. Third, simulations reveal that, for UT-Austin, capping automatic admits based on high school class rank would have roughly uniform impacts across schools that differ in economic status, but imposing minimum test score threshold would greatly reduce the admission eligibility of the highest performing students from poor high schools with low college going traditions while not jeopardizing that of feeder and affluent high school graduates.

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Presented in Session 186: Inequality in Access to College and College Performance