SAN FRANCISCO — Microsoft Corp. won an appeals court ruling that may lower the rates many electronics makers pay to license technology considered standard in smartphones and computers.
An appeals court in San Francisco Thursday upheld a $14.5 million jury verdict against Google Inc. as punishment for unfairly demanding what Microsoft said amounted to billions of dollars for use of patents covering Wi-Fi and video downloads.
The decision gives new ammunition to companies like Apple, Intel Corp. and Hewlett-Packard which have waged a worldwide campaign to lower the amount of money they pay for essential technologies that let mobile phones download video, access Wi-Fi or accept calls no matter the manufacturer.
“This ruling is a win for consumers, competition, and innovation,” said Charles Duan, a lawyer with consumer group Public Knowledge, which backed Microsoft. “It keeps prices reasonable for old products and allows new products to come to the marketplaces.”
The court upheld a jury decision that Google’s Motorola breached its obligation to license the patents on fair and reasonable terms. The obligation came because they are part of industry standards that Motorola helped develop.
The technology industry, which is split over patent policies, has been watching this case closely for guidance on how to value standardized technology. Regulators and courts on three continents have been wrangling with the issue of whether there are different rules for such patents compared with those related to inventions that are unique to a specific product.
The developers of fundamental technology in the wireless industry, including Qualcomm Inc., Ericsson and Nokia, have argued they need compensation for the billions they poured into research that consumers now take for granted.
Companies often get together to develop standardized technology so products can work together. Since they have the advantage of ensuring their inventions become part of the standard, they agree to license any relevant patents on fair reasonable and non-discriminatory terms, known as FRAND.
Google got the case as part of its 2012 purchase of Motorola Mobility. It’s since sold the handset business but retained most of the patents. Caroline Matthews, a spokeswoman for Google, said the company had no comment on the court decision.
The case dates back to 2010. Microsoft argued that Motorola, then a stand-alone company, violated its commitment by demanding a 2.25 percent cut of sales of the XBox video-game system and Windows products for using its Wi-Fi and video- compression patents.
Microsoft claimed the request was exorbitant and would amount to $4 billion a year. Microsoft spokesman David Cuddy declined to comment on the appeals court ruling.
Motorola, which made the demand after Microsoft sought royalties on its handsets, said the 2.25 percent was its usual opening gambit in licensing talks. It said Microsoft just didn’t want to negotiate.
When Microsoft refused to pay, Motorola asked courts to shut down sales. Microsoft was forced to move its distribution center out of Germany before District Judge James Robart in Seattle said Motorola couldn’t get any sales bans while the royalty fight was pending.
In 2013, after Google’s acquisition of Motorola, Robart determined the patents were worth a small fraction of what the company had sought. He looked at the value of the patents added to the standard and compared the rate to that collected by patent pools, where a number of companies combine their patents and charge a set fee.
The jury, using Robart’s valuation, found that Motorola had breached its contractual obligations to license its patents on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.
After Robart’s ruling, other judges began copying his analysis for their own cases.
The appeals court on Thursday upheld Robart’s analysis of how to calculate the correct royalty rate, and the jury’s use of that information. It also said Microsoft was entitled to compensation for having to move its German facility to the Netherlands and the legal costs to ensure it didn’t have to stop selling any of its products.
“The jury’s verdict was supported by substantial evidence, and its damages award was proper,” the three-judge appeals court panel ruled.
Home buying was up 19 percent statewide in the second quarter, led by Clearfield and Farr West, the Salt Lake Board of Realtors said.
Clearfield marked 312 homes sold and Farr West 294. Layton also was in the top 10, with 199 sales.
“Home buyers appear drawn to affordable areas. In fact, seven of the top 10 cities making the list had home prices lower than their respective county’s median home price,” said Dave Robison, president of the Salt Lake Board of Realtors.
In the second quarter, sales of single-family homes along the Wasatch Front increased 19 percent to 8,411 sales, up from 7,059 sales in the second quarter of 2014. At 29 percent, Tooele County posted the highest percent increase in home sales. In Salt Lake County, home sales climbed 16 percent. Utah, Davis and Weber counties also posted double-digit gains.
The median-priced home sold along the Wasatch Front increased to $253,000, up 9 percent compared to $231,900 in the second quarter of 2014.
WASHINGTON — The battle to define what Americans should eat is pitting nutritionists against deep-pocketed groups that are spending almost 14 times more cash on lobbying in Washington.
Coca Cola , food-industry and farm groups concerned about the recommendation of a government panel to cut sugar and meat consumption accounted for 85 percent of the comments on the issue from April to June, with health and environmental groups making up the rest, federal records show.
The corporate organizations spent $15.3 million lobbying on the guidelines and other issues in the quarter, compared with $1.1 million by groups supporting the proposals, including the American Academy of Pediatrics. Specific spending isn’t tracked for work on the guidelines, which were proposed by a panel of scientists five months ago.
“When you’re a nonprofit you rely on donor dollars, and we don’t have the resources others have,” said Kristy Anderson, government relations manager in Washington for the Dallas-based American Heart Association. “When we advocate it comes down to the science and our reputation.”
The recommendations, if adopted by the Obama administration, would move nutrition policy closer to the goal of reducing the overconsumption that is blamed for almost tripling U.S. obesity rates from the 1960s to 2010.
The guidelines are used to shape school lunch menus and the $6 billion a year Women, Infants and Children program, which helps more than 8 million Americans buy groceries. The departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture plan to release their twice-a-decade recommendations by the end of this year.
The nonpartisan Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a panel of scientists that is advising the agency, proposed the first explicit target on “added sugars” from food processing. It recommended that U.S. adults consume no more than 10 percent of all calories as added sugar, down from the average 13 percent now. Consumption of “lean meat,” favored in 2010 guidelines, warranted only a footnote in 2015, with encouragement to cut meat consumption in general.
The Food and Drug Administration last week endorsed the 10 percent concept as part of a labeling proposal to begin noting added-sugars content on cereal boxes, soda bottles and other packaged foods. That consumption level would be the basis of the agency’s recommended daily limits that’s printed on labels.
The American Beverage Association, whose members include Coca Cola, PepsiCo and Dr Pepper Snapple Group, is pushing back on added sugars, saying those calories don’t cause obesity more than any other calories.
The beverage group hired lobbyists from three firms and is using its staff in “talking with Congress and various bureaucracies in Washington that have a hand in this advice to make sure diet recommendations are based on sound science,” spokesman William Dermody said in an e-mail.
The association also is using social media to encourage sending emails to lawmakers about “keeping government out of our grocery carts,” he said. “The response has been impressive,” he said, without providing specifics.
One champion for keeping sugar in our diets is Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway is the largest investor in Coca Cola and owns about one-quarter of Cheez Whiz maker Kraft Heinz. At Berkshire’s annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, in May, Buffett said happiness is important to longevity and that consumers enjoy Coca Cola products.
“I don’t see smiles on the faces of people at Whole Foods,” said Buffett, 84, citing a grocery chain known for offerings such as organic frozen blue curled kale.
Buffett didn’t respond to a request for comment sent to an assistant.
Recommendations on meat, meanwhile, are opposed by livestock groups.
Downplaying lean meat’s contribution to a healthy diet doesn’t help consumers make healthy choices, said Kristina Butts, executive director of legislative affairs for the Washington-based National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
“Our biggest concern is about the process” of the advisory panel, which she said isn’t transparent. The association’s goal is to give greater prominence to an endorsement of lean meat as appropriate to eat, she said.
Lawmakers also have sought to limit the scope of the panel’s work, attaching language to appropriations bills.
A Senate Appropriations Committee bill approved July 16 contains language added by subcommittee Chairman Jerry Moran, R-Kan., that the guidelines can use only “nutritional and scientific evidence” for its recommendations.
The House version would bar the release or implementation of the guidelines unless the changes are based on scientific evidence and apply only to “diet and nutrient intake.”
Such measures would make it difficult to include proposals not directly related to diet, such as weighing environmental sustainability in diet choices or imposing a soda tax to cut purchases of sugary beverages tied to increased obesity. The advisory panel mentioned both in its report.
Still, Tom Brenna, a nutrition and chemistry professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and an advisory panel member, said he remains hopeful the government may not stray too far because of heightened public interest.
“I think we’re having an effect, no matter how the guidelines will turn out,” Brenna said. “If we have to repeat ourselves, we’ll say them again and again and again.”
The Professional Sales Department at Weber State University has experienced a couple of changes. Aaron Hall, executive director of our Sales Center, left with his family this summer to preside over the Texas Houston South Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mikelle Barberi-Weil has taken over as the new Alan E. Hall Sales Center director and is already using her talents to build upon the great foundation that Aaron was able to build.
I have been given the opportunity to serve as our department chair. All of our faculty and staff have been very helpful as I do my best to embrace this change.
During this time I have contemplated the other changes I have made during different time periods in my life and how they have made such a positive impact on my future. One change I would like to share happened when I was a sophomore in college. I had an average college job, which I was very grateful to have. I was working on a degree in business administration and had the thought that I ought to try to get a job that would give me experience relating to my degree.
As I checked the university’s job sites, one job stood out. It was a sales position for an insurance company. The money they were advertising had the potential to give me a big raise if I could be a producer. I decided to quit my current job and take a chance by making a change. I literally doubled my hourly wage my first week. More importantly, this change helped me realize my own strengths and led me into the professional sales field, where I found success in both sales and leadership roles.
Many others have found the value of becoming professional salespeople. The great thing about quality salespeople is that they are needed in all economic trends. If you can develop the skills to sell, you will always have a job. There are many companies here in Utah as well as globally that will hire as many quality salespeople as they can find.
There are many who would benefit by learning new sales skills or adapting their own skill set and starting a career in professional sales. I am not suggesting that every person quits their current job and join a sales force; however, it may be beneficial to test your own sales capabilities on a part-time basis. It may also be beneficial to come by our department and sign up for an introductory sales course where we teach more about the sales process and opportunities in the field. Although there can be a steep learning curve to excel in the selling process, people are making the change to professional sales every day and finding great opportunities. You could be next.
Blake Nielson is chair of the Professional Sales Department at Weber State University.
You can become a partner or member at the WSU Sales Center. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow at www.facebook.com/wsusales or visit the website at www.weber.edu/salescenter.
WASHINGTON — A nine-month federal investigation into the fatal crash last year of a Virgin Galactic spaceship found that the company hired to build and test the vehicle failed to properly train its pilots and did not implement basic safeguards to prevent the human error that caused the accident.
The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday announced that the probable cause of the October crash of a test flight was a mix of human error and systematic failures by Scaled Composites, the company that designed and was operating Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.
The spacecraft, designed to take paying passengers to the edge of Earth’s atmosphere, crashed in the Mojave Desert, killing co-pilot Michael Alsbury, 39, and injuring pilot Peter Siebold, 43, who ejected from the vehicle at an altitude of more than 40,000 feet.
The NTSB had earlier concluded that Alsbury mistakenly unlocked a “feather” system on the spaceship that allows two wings to stand upright and create drag on the vehicle. With the wings unlocked prematurely, the spaceship broke apart in midair.
But at Tuesday’s hearing, board members focused on the safety culture at Scaled Composites, particularly how it trained its pilots and the systems that could have prevented a premature unlocking of the system.
It determined that the company “failed to consider and protect against the possibility that a single human error could result in a catastrophic hazard.”
Scaled Composites also did not ensure that “pilots adequately understood the risks of unlocking the feather early,” the investigation found.
NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said that Scaled “put all their eggs in the basket of the pilot doing it correctly.” But, he said, humans will inevitably make mistakes, “and the mistake is oftentimes a symptom of a flawed system.”
Kevin Mickey, a spokesman for Scaled Composites, which is owned by Northrop Grumman, said that “safety has always been a critical component of Scaled’s culture and, as the NTSB noted today, our pilots were experienced and well-trained.”
He said the company has “already made changes in the wake of the accident to further enhance safety. We will continue to look for additional ways to do so.”
Virgin Galactic said it has “already implemented changes as a result of the accident,” including putting in place an “inhibitor” that would prevent the feather from being prematurely unlocked.
NTSB officials also questioned whether the Federal Aviation Administration, under pressure to issue or deny flight permits within a 120-day period, rushed Scaled Composites’ test-flight application without fully vetting it.
The NTSB recommended that the FAA more thoroughly examine permit applications to make sure they ensure safety.
An FAA spokesman said the agency takes “all NTSB recommendations very seriously” and that the agency has 90 days to review them and respond.
“The most important questions in life can never be answered by anyone except oneself.” —John Fowles
A surprising amount of success comes from the questions we ask ourselves and listening for the right answers. Think of using questions like using a search engine. Learning to use keywords and how to phrase the request helps get results.
Questions are the starting point for discovery in life and work. We live in a time of unprecedented availability of information. It can be hard to distinguish what’s beneficial or harmful. That’s when good questioning skills come in handy.
So, how do we know when to ask ourselves questions? It should become a regular habit, but hesitation, confusion and frustration are good indicators that we should be asking ourselves questions about a situation.
The right questions asked at the right time are always empowering, but some questions have even more impact. Reflective and presupposing questions are two special types that effectively challenge our thinking.
A reflective question is a probing or clarifying question used to reflect inward and consider possibilities in a certain way. Here are some reflective questions:
• What will make me most comfortable with this action/decision/situation? This question reminds you to make the most of your unique strengths and preferences.
• What stops me from taking action? This question helps you identify beliefs that may be holding you back.
• What would achieving this goal give me? This directs you to consider the link between your goal and your needs and values.
• What tells me that this is what I’d achieve? This question helps you tune into your intuition or the evidence of your senses.
• What’s great about the option I’m considering? This question helps you reflect positively on the solutions you’re generating.
• How will I know when I’ve reached my goal? This question keeps you focused on positive actions, milestones and results.
Presupposing questions are hypothetical questions that can help generate goals and solutions by putting aside beliefs that may be holding us back and imagining what could be. Here are some examples of presupposing questions:
• If I had to guess my life purpose to date, what would it be?
• What would I most like to be acknowledged for so far in my life and work?
• What needs to happen in my lifetime to consider my life well lived?
• If I knew I couldn’t fail, what would I do next?
• What can I do differently to get new and better results?
• If it were possible to combine the security of my current job and the freedom of my dream job, what would I do?
Questioning is one of the most important skills for success and listening is probably the most underrated. The quality of our personal and professional lives will improve dramatically if we spend more time listening to our inner voice.
It feels empowering to ask yourself questions and really listen to the answers. But, it can be difficult to know whether the voice you hear is your inner coach or your inner critic. Be patient and it will get easier with practice.
Sometimes no matter how hard you try you will simply draw a blank. Maybe you need to search for a different question, try again later or change your state of mind. The answer can come when you least expect it, so don’t give up.
Your energy levels can contribute to how good you are at making sense of your answers. Also stress, busyness and depression can make it difficult to hear your inner voice. At these times find some refuge to be alone with your thoughts.
Most questions will be answered if you learn to relax and wait for the answer. Eventually, you will be able to ask the questions and receive the answers that will help you live your very best life and tap into all your potential.
Brad Larsen is a life coach and corporate consultant from northern Utah. He can be reached at email@example.com
Delta Air Lines is cooking up what may be one of the most appealing flight upgrades yet: one that allows you to bag a commercial flight altogether and board a private jet.
The new upgrade program, targeted at what Delta calls “high-value customers,” will cost $300 to $800, depending on destination. Beginning as soon as this week, passengers who have achieved elite or “medallion” status in Delta’s SkyMiles frequent-flyer program will be eligible for the upgrade offers. But officials stress that the initial number of private jet flights will be small and focused mainly at Delta’s East Coast hubs.
“This is truly a groundbreaking new approach from both industry standpoints,” said James Murray, vice president of operations at Delta Private Jets (DPJ). “Nobody else can do what we’re talking about doing.”
Delta’s decision to merge some of its commercial traffic with its 66-aircraft private jet unit shows the airline’s relentless focus on finding new revenue or squeezing more from existing customers, which is why carriers now appear to nickel- and-dime passengers for everything from snacks to movies once free of charge. Corporate travelers, who are less price- conscious because they book travel on their company’s credit card, represent the most attractive business for most large network carriers. The move reflects the airline industry’s keen focus on differentiating air travel and showering their most profitable customers with ever-higher levels of perks and amenities. For example, Delta, like most of its rivals, already drives lucrative passengers from one flight to another in luxury cars, allowing them to bypass the airport terminal gauntlet. (Delta uses Porsches, United goes with Mercedes, and American chose Cadillac.) Chauffeuring customers to a private jet is a logical brand extension.
The upgrades could also help Delta quell one of the thorniest-and costliest-problems in private aviation, known as “empty legs,” or the need to reposition a jet without having a customer headed to that particular location. These inefficient flights account for roughly a third of all private jet flights, despite years of effort by the industry to minimize them. The advent of greater tracking data and new software analytics tools is likely to help private jet operators reduce their empty legs even further, said Erik Snell, president of Delta Private Jets.
Initially, only Delta’s top customers-those at the highest “Diamond Medallion” level, which is met when people spend $15,000 at Delta and travel at least 125,000 miles or 140 flight segments per year-were going to be invited to purchase the upgrades. But the company has spent several months tweaking its model and decided to expand the pool of potential customers by opening it to people at the lowest elite tier, those who travel 25,000 miles or 30 segments annually, and who spend $3,000. Most of the upgrades will involve travel scheduled the next day, although Delta Private Jets said it would have some flights that offer travelers as much as 48 hours’ notice.
Earlier this year, Delta Private Jets filed for a patent on the scheme of how to transfer passengers from a commercial carrier to a private jet operator. DPJ, a wholly owned subsidiary that calls itself the fourth-largest U.S. operator of private jet flights, has received regulatory approval to fly Delta passengers on 160 domestic routes, although it plans to begin mainly with flights among Atlanta, New York, and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, near the unit’s Erlanger (Ky.) headquarters.
Over time, Delta Private Jets officials said the program might expand, potentially deploying part of the private jet fleet toward regular upgrades on certain routes, complementing Delta’s commercial service. And depending on passenger reception, Delta may begin marketing the option of a private jet upgrade as commonly as it touts airport lounges, first class, and other amenities for the most lucrative travelers. Still, “Delta operates a whole lot more flights than we have [private] airplanes,” Murray said, which means an upgrade to a private jet is likely to remain a niche offering.
Yet, the “empty legs” problem of a vacant cabin won’t ever be eliminated. That’s one reason executives at the Delta unit were keen to see if they could match up routes with their mainline parent and harvest some of Delta’s most profitable customers-many of whom might not have flown privately before but could afford to.
Across the private jet industry, a trip averages about $5,500 per hour, DPJ officials said. At an initial $300-$800 per flight, some Delta customers will find the upgrade an inexpensive way to sample the swank romance of private aviation. “The hope is that once someone flies private, and they don’t have to go through TSA, and they have the experience, then they may determine that they want to fly private more often,” said Cyril Turner, Delta Private Jets’ chief executive officer. Financially, the goal is “not necessarily to break even but to at least get some type of income” from the empty flights, Turner said in a June interview.
The project has not been without hiccups. Delta Private Jets had hoped to launch the upgrades in early June but quickly found a need to tweak the initial $800 flat fee and to brief corporate travel managers about the initiative.
Logistically, the operation faces a variety of hurdles beyond jet scheduling. Some corporate travel managers may not love the idea of employees spending more money at the last minute, or now having to devise a travel policy on who pays for it. The company also had to receive Department of Transportation approval for its plans; it is allowed to fly commercial passengers four days per week, Tuesday-Friday, and must submit for review new cities it wants to add. The upgrade program, for now, will include only domestic flights. (And miles junkies, take note: There’s no bonus in the upgrade, just the usual mileage accrual one would get taking the regular Delta flight.)
DPJ offers some of its charter-jet customers a 10-hour guarantee, meaning that it will make a plane available anywhere in its network with that much notice. That provision complicates the ability to match a jet with Delta’s scheduled routes; some of the private jet fleet repositioning happens overnight, when Delta has few domestic flights. “If we lock up an airplane two days out, we can put ourselves in a potential bind as far as covering” the regular business, Murray said. In other cases, he said, “sometimes we have trips booked for specific airplanes and so we know exactly what that airplane is going to be doing in three days.”
DPJ has been testing and revising its model in earnest since May. The company had a customer-who later changed his travel plans-booked for a June 12 flight from Atlanta to Cincinnati on an eight-passenger Cessna Citation X. The first flight is now expected to occur as early as July 29, although company officials said the timing remains uncertain.
“As it stands right now,” said Murray, “there’s only a very small subset of the population that can afford to fly privately on a routine basis.”
WASHINGTON — George Washington University dropped its testing requirement for most freshman admissions Monday, becoming one of the largest and most prominent schools to declare that its applicants don’t have to take the SAT or ACT.
The announcement from the private university in the nation’s capital reflects a growing belief in some college admission circles that standardized tests are a barrier to recruiting disadvantaged students. While that view is sharply debated, many say it is possible to assemble a strong class without forcing applicants to submit a score from tests that critics say are culturally biased and often fail to reflect academic potential.
GWU administrators say they always seek well-rounded applicants by looking beyond test scores. But they have worried lately that anxiety about scores was leading some students to cross the school of their list.
“Although we have long employed a holistic application review process, we had concerns that students who could be successful at GW felt discouraged from applying if their scores were not as strong as their high school performance,” said Dean of Admissions Karen Stroud Felton. “We want outstanding students from all over the world and from all different backgrounds — regardless of their standardized scores — to recognize GW as a place where they can thrive.”
More than 125 private colleges and universities featured in U.S. News and World Report rankings now have test-optional admission policies, according to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, or FairTest. Twenty have joined that group since January 2014, including Wesleyan University, ranked 15th among national liberal arts colleges. American University, also in the District of Columbia and ranked 71st on the magazine’s national university list, went test-optional a few years earlier.
GWU ranks 54th on that list, and among private universities in the national top 100, GWU becomes the largest with test-optional admissions. It has 25,000 students, more than 10,000 of them undergraduates.
Wake Forest University, 27th on the national university list, said it has recruited more minority students since going test-optional in 2009. “We find much more value in a student’s accomplishments in four years of high school than in four hours of Saturday testing,” said Martha Blevins Allman, dean of admissions at the private university in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Some prominent schools require test scores but allow applicants to send results from Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams instead of the SAT or ACT. Among these “test-flexible” schools are New York University, University of Rochester and Hamilton College. Some public universities — including Salisbury in Maryland and George Mason, Mary Washington, Christopher Newport, Old Dominion, Radford and Virginia Commonwealth in Virginia — will waive testing requirements for applicants with qualified grade-point averages. Others, such as the University of Texas, grant automatic admission to eligible in-state applicants who rank near the top of their high school class.
Most of the nation’s selective schools continue to require the SAT or ACT. Millions of high school students each year take one exam or the other — often both, and sometimes repeatedly — on the presumption that admissions testing is an exasperating but essential ritual. The College Board is preparing to roll out a new SAT in March, the first revision since 2005, with the essay becoming optional and the perfect score reverting from 2400 to the iconic standard of 1600.
The ACT, now more widely used than the SAT in the United States, has contracts with many states to test all 11th-graders in public schools. The test-preparation industry has grown worldwide as college-bound students seek every possible edge to get into ultra-selective schools.
ACT President Jon L. Erickson dismissed any suggestion that there is a significant test-optional trend. “I’m not seeing it,” he said.
Erickson said test scores, read alongside transcripts and other elements of an application package, have proven their value to generations of admissions officers. Asked about schools that have dropped testing requirements, Erickson said: “I have to question why having less information to make a decision is a good thing. To me, for a good decision, you want as much information as possible.”
Jack Buckley, senior vice president for research at the College Board, said the SAT is “an essential part of the admissions process” for most colleges and universities. “Test-optional schools are our members and our partners,” Buckley said in a statement. “We respect the decisions they make about their admissions processes and we will continue to listen to our members, evolve our programs, and work to expand access to opportunity for all students.”
Both admissions tests were originally conceived as measures to widen access to college, helping colleges sort students on individual merit rather than connections of family and privilege. Research has shown, though, that there are correlations between economic circumstances and test scores.
The College Board and ACT also play a crucial role as gatherers and disseminators of data on potential applicants. Colleges purchase student names from the two nonprofit organizations (and other sources) every year as they begin mass marketing to identify prospects. Both organizations also seek to promote the ideal that students from any background can aim for college — and aim high.
But GWU officials said that in recent years they have grown worried that their efforts to diversify were hitting obstacles. They feared that some students with strong records in high school were not applying because of a misguided perception that their scores weren’t good enough.
In 2014, test scores for students in the middle of those offered admission to GWU ranged from 1890 to 2110 on the SAT, and 28 to 32 on the ACT, which has a top score of 36. A quarter of admitted students scored higher than those marks, and a quarter scored lower. But that range — known as “the middle half” — is a widely circulated statistic for selective colleges. Students whose scores fall short of the middle half might wonder about their chances, even if they have taken a rigorous path through high school, earned A’s and B’s, written fine essays and displayed strong personal qualities.
“We want those students to have us on their radar, and not self-select out of the pool,” said Laurie Koehler, GWU’s senior associate provost for enrollment management. That is the primary reason for GWU’s policy shift, which takes effect for students seeking admission for fall 2016. The change was recommended by a task force on access and success that university President Steven Knapp formed in early 2014.
Testing will still be required for home-schooled applicants, GWU said, as well as students from high schools that only provide narrative evaluation of students, college athletes and those applying for a seven-year program that leads to a combined bachelor’s/medical degree.
Koehler said she expects many students will send in test scores despite the new option. Those scores, she said, will provide some insight. “I don’t think we’re trying to say that testing in itself is always bad or worthless,” she said.
But Koehler said the value of scores, for an admissions officer seeking to gauge potential, pales in comparison to the value of other information. The best predictor of success in college, she said, “is high school performance as measured on a transcript, and in the context of the school.”
George Washington University is simultaneously seeking to raise its national profile and diversify its student body. With a full price this fall of more than $62,000 for tuition, fees, room and board, GWU provides significant grants to students in financial need. About 14 percent of its undergraduates also receive need-based federal Pell grants. Ten percent are black or Hispanic.
The test-optional movement has been building for years, often among liberal arts colleges. Bowdoin College in Maine dropped testing requirements in 1969. Bates College, also in Maine, abandoned its SAT requirement in 1984 and other testing mandates in 1990. A slew of other small schools eventually joined them, including Smith, Bryn Mawr, and College of the Holy Cross. In recent years, some national universities also have gone test-optional, according to FairTest, including George Mason in 2006, Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 2007, DePaul in 2011, Brandeis in 2013, Old Dominion and Temple in 2014 and Virginia Commonwealth this year. In all, FairTest counts more than 800 schools of all kinds — including tiny religious colleges and online for-profit educators — that admit substantial numbers of students without using SAT or ACT scores.
Hampshire College went a step further last year, declaring itself “test-blind.” That means it won’t even look at SAT or ACT results. “Even if it’s a perfect score,” the college said.
William C. Hiss, a former Bates admission dean, led a study of student outcomes at 33 test-optional colleges and universities for the National Association for College Admission Counseling. It found last year that there was no significant difference in college grades or graduation rates between those students who had submitted test scores with their applications and those who hadn’t.
Hiss, a longtime test-optional advocate, said many admission chiefs told him the policies bolstered diversity. “They saw increases in applications from both low-income students and students of color,” Hiss said.
Others are skeptical of that claim. Andrew Belasco, a college-admissions consultant in Georgia who studied more than 30 liberal arts colleges with test-optional policies, last year found no evidence that they had more success than schools with testing mandates at raising the share of students from poor or minority backgrounds.
“If you’re really serious about attracting low-income students, you need to get serious about meeting those students where they are,” Belasco said. “You need to actually get out and recruit. You need to do more things in financial aid, making it easier for students to attend.”