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Baylor expresses regret for cash incentives to incoming freshmen


WACO, Texas (BP) — Baylor University’s vice president for marketing and communications told Baptist Press Oct. 16 the school regrets offering students cash incentives for retaking the SAT, a program he said was motivated by a desire to permit students access to additional financial aid.

In response to inquiries from students and parents, John Barry said Baylor decided to move up the admissions process last year so they could notify students of award packages earlier. In May, however, Baylor administrators noticed that the school had committed less financial aid than they had expected to award by a reconfigured February deadline.

Barry added that in pushing the deadlines forward students may have opted out of retaking the SAT and getting a better score, thus denying themselves more financial aid.

To prompt students, each incoming freshman received a $300 book scholarship redeemable at the campus bookstore just for retaking the exam last June.

“We were concerned that maybe that wouldn’t be enough, and we thought, ‘OK, well how about then in addition if a student does well and scores 50 points or more, we provide that additional $1,000 incentive?’” Barry recounted.

Since news of the incentive program broke Oct. 9 in the Baylor campus newspaper, The Lariat, controversy has ensued, including several academic experts who have said Baylor misused the SAT in order to boost their status in the U.S. News and World Report ranking of colleges and universities.

Baylor’s Faculty Senate passed a motion criticizing the incentives program Oct. 15, saying the practice is “academically dishonest and should be discontinued.”

About 28 percent of the newly admitted Baylor students accepted the incentives offer, and 151 of them earned the $1,000 per year merit scholarships, collectively raising Baylor’s average SAT score for incoming freshmen from 1200 to 1210, still nine points below last year’s freshman class and three points below the 2006 class.