Is The New Photo ID Requirement For College Entrance Exams A Form Of Student Suppression?

Bill Hobbs | March 28, 2012 | 12:04pm EDT
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The companies that administer two key college entrance exams have adopted new measures arguably designed to decrease participation in the tests - and, ultimately, enrollment in colleges in university - by minority and elderly students.

The two companies that administer the tests, the College Board and ACT Inc., which administer the SAT and ACT tests, have announced that students taking the tests will be required to present photo IDs.

The new requirement is being called a "key security upgrade" and comes in response to an alleged cheating scandal in which students allegedly paid someone else to take the tests for them.

The new photo ID-based security process is actually more complex and difficult than the photo ID requirements that Americans now face when trying to vote in many states that have recently adopted new "Voter ID" laws.

In those states, voters merely are asked to present a photo ID to prove their identity when they try to vote, and if they don't have a photo ID they can still cast a "provisional ballot" and prove their identity later. Also, most states with Voter ID laws provide free photo IDs to residents. Yet, critics claim the requirement is suppressing voters.

Compare that to the onerous new photo-ID security process in the case of college entrance exams, as reported by the Associated Press:

"The new testing requirements include making students upload a photograph of themselves when they register for the SAT or ACT. Those unable to upload a photo will be permitted to mail in a photo, which will be scanned by the testing agency. Then, an admission ticket into the testing site, containing the scanned photo, will be mailed to the student.

The photo will not only be printed on the admission ticket, but on the test site roster, and can be checked against the photo ID a student provides at the test center. That photo will be attached to students' scores as they are reported to high schools and colleges.

"Other changes include checking student IDs more frequently at test centers; IDs will be checked when students enter a test site, and whenever they re-enter the test room after breaks, and again when the answer sheets are collected. Testing companies also may conduct 'spot checks' with enhanced security at random test locations, or where cheating is suspected. Proctors also will receive additional training to help them identify cheaters and high school and college officials will receive more information about reporting suspected cheating to testing companies.

"A spokesman for the College Board noted that some of the security enhancements were developed in consultation with a security firm run by former FBI director Louis Freeh."

Students will not be given free photo IDs - they will have to, at their own expense, provide a photo to the testing companies. And some students - especially minorities and elderly students - might lack both Internet access to upload a photo, and a way to get to the post office to purchase a stamp to mail a photo to the testing companies.

Further, there is no plan to offer students "provisional" tests if they show up for the SAT or ACT and don't have a photo ID.

Why do The College Board and ACT Inc. want to suppress participation by minorities and elderly students in our system of higher education?

Newsflash: They don't, of course. They just want to make sure that the students taking the test are who they say they are.

Nassau County, New York, District Attorney Kathleen Rice, who is overseeing the investigation into an SAT cheating scandal on Long Island, where about 20 students allegedly paid someone up to $3,500 to take the test for them, says the new photo ID system is needed so that the millions of students who don't cheat can have confidence in the overall college entrance exam system.

"Millions of college-bound students who take the SAT and ACT each year can have a new confidence that their hard work and preparation will be rewarded and not diminished by cheaters," Rice said in a story in the Huffington Post.

The same logic is the reason to have Voter ID laws - so that voters, regardless of race, gender, age or political party, can have confidence that their participation in the election will not be diminished by cheaters.

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