Delusion and Dogma in Virginia Tech’s Admissions Office

Juan Espinoza, Virginia Tech
Associate Vice Provost for Enrollment Management
and Director of Undergraduate Admissions.  Official photo.

by James C. Sherlock

Showing once again that people can convince themselves of anything, the Collegiate Times, Virginia Tech’s student newspaper, published on November 5th a story titled:

“Record low ACT scores not a concern for Virginia Tech admissions”

The opening sentences:

Virginia Tech admissions are unbothered by the lowest reported ACT scores in 31 years and say that there are other application metrics for determining college readiness.

“When you look at standardized testing as a predictor on how students will do once they’re in college as a standalone variable, it’s never been a very strong predictor,” said Juan Espinoza, director of undergraduate admissions at Virginia Tech. [Emphasis added.]

He is just wrong about that, as we will show.

We also note that

Juan led Virginia Tech’s international admissions and recruitment efforts.

So, he may be the man to see about why the PRC-run Chinese Students and Scholars Association is still on campus keeping tabs, and pressure, on Tech’s one thousand Chinese students.

Institutions need to make temporary adjustments to their admissions criteria to mitigate coronavirus impact on applications and enrollment.

They should not, as in the case of Tech’s admissions head, pretend they have found new facts in the process that make ACT and SAT unnecessary metrics in admissions.

The article quotes Mr. Espinoza on the value of a “holistic view”:

We do what are called non-cognitive attributes, essentially attributes based on the student’s characteristics or experiences that can be utilized, research shows, at a higher level than testing when being utilized as predictors on how they’re not only gonna do in college, but how they’re gonna do in life. [Challenge: diagram that sentence.]

And on the academic side, we pay strong attention to grades, which has been proven to be very good predictor and rigor of courses, so we like to see AP, IB (and/or) dual enrollment classes.  [Emphasis added.]

That is an example of truth by repeated assertion on the left. He does not provide specifics to support his “research shows” argument.

Let’s look at actual research.

In January of 2020, the University of California Standardized Testing Task Force, a faculty group unsuspected of right wing sympathies, completed a yearlong review of testing as a college admissions tool.

An Ed Source story on the comprehensive report reported the following findings:

  • Standardized tests are the best predictor of a student’s first-year success, retention, and graduation;
  • The value of admissions test scores in predicting college success has increased since 2007, while the value of grades has decreased, due in part to high school grade inflation and different grading standards;
  • In regard to equity, testing does not worsen disparities for under-represented minority applicants and low-income students; instead, large differences in high school grades and course-taking are responsible for much of the difference in admissions rates across groups;
  • If testing requirements were eliminated, it would deny automatic admission to 40% of African American students and more than 25% of low-income and first-generation students admitted to UC today.

But the inequity of standardized admissions tests remains leftist dogma.

They are unconvinced by actual studies, even from faculty as left as at UC, that show the claim to be not only false, but its implementation to be disadvantageous to minorities.

Bottom line. Mr. Espinoza publicly ignores facts about the value of standardized tests that do not fit his personal position and jeopardizes admissions of the most qualified minority applicants in the process.

He makes Tech look ridiculous by claiming publicly that the new freshman class’ lowest ACT scores in 31 years are of no concern.

He ignores the PRC unit that operates at Tech as a student organization.

Tech is a great school. If it wishes to remain so, it should consider whether its current admissions chief will serve it well going forward.