Students in the Monroe County School District continue to take ACT and SAT tests used to determine college admission.

“Normally, we schedule about a dozen every year. The only two that were postponed were in March … and were recently administered,” said Dave Murphy, MCSD’s executive director of assessment and accountability. 

Murphy said that in the 2019-20 school year, 415 Keys seniors took the SAT a total of 530 times. So far this school year, 235 seniors have taken the exam 262 times. (ACT numbers are similarly off — in 2019, the test was administered 161 times, and, this year 17 times).

“But we do not yet have the SAT school data back from the Oct. 14 administration or the makeup day that was offered this week,” Murphy said. In October, the test was offered to 549 students in the Keys.

Most seniors bound for university will take the test two or three times. In many parts of Florida, testing has been canceled all together. Some mainland students are traveling to the Keys to take the exams, according to reports from local students. Recently, the Miami Herald reported that more than half of high school seniors in Florida did not have a test score as of September. And while Keys students have access to the tests, it’s bumping right up against the college application deadline that opens for most schools in November.

Holly Holly’s daughter, Katie Marie Holly, is a senior at Coral Shores High School. 

“She was supposed to take the test last March before the coronavirus hit and that got backed up to August. Now her SAT scores aren’t what she wants them to be and she’s stressed because she’s applying for colleges right now,” Holly said. “She’s just hoping for the best.”

Florida is one of three state college systems that has not made ACT and SAT test scores optional for undergraduates applying to university in 2021. 

Over the summer, more than 400 colleges nationwide decided to stop requiring SAT or ACT scores for admission for the graduating class of 2021, according to The Atlantic. Florida’s public universities did not, although the state’s Board of Governors has the power to do so. 

“I do feel that the universities will still review the students from a more holistic perspective,” said Lindsey Moore, a college success coach for Take Stock in Children scholarship students. “But the test scores will still be required.”

There’s even more uncertainty for seniors graduating in 2021: will their school of choice offer only virtual instruction? Moore said some of her students have contingency plans to stay in the Keys.

“Take Stock students need to put aside money to pay for the extra expenses that university requires,” she said. “It may be in their best interest to stay in the Keys and live at home while schooling virtually until they can be physically on campus.”

Shannon Pitchford graduated from Marathon High School in 2019. She attended most of her first year on campus at Florida State University before being sent home during the middle of the second semester. She is taking college classes from her home in the Middle Keys.

“Even if I wanted to go back to Tallahassee, which I’m not sure I do in the middle of a pandemic, I don’t have any housing plans,” she said.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, freshmen (or first-year) undergraduate enrollment fell by 16% nationwide. According to the Gainesville Sun, the number of freshmen enrolled at University of Florida has dropped 23% compared with last year. According to the Orlando Sentinel, applications are down 32% at Florida State University when compared to 2019. 

Colleges and universities are not only seeing a decrease in first-year student enrollment, but across the board. Nationwide, there has been a 4% decrease in sophomore, junior and senior  undergraduate students and a stunning 23% decrease in enrollment at community colleges. 

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