Second Free SAT


Reference to a current Michigan bill or law that relates in some way to your proposal:


380.1279g Michigan merit examination; definitions. Sec. 1279g. Number 7

  • (7) A school district or public school academy shall administer the complete Michigan merit examination to a pupil only once and shall not administer the complete Michigan merit examination to the same pupil more than once. If a pupil does not take the complete Michigan merit examination in grade 11, the school district or public school academy shall administer the complete Michigan merit examination to the pupil in grade 12. If a pupil chooses to retake the college entrance examination component of the Michigan merit examination, as described in subsection (2)(a), the pupil may do so through the provider of the college entrance examination component and the cost of the retake is the responsibility of the pupil unless all of the following are met:

    • (a) The pupil has taken the complete Michigan merit examination.

    • (b) The pupil meets the income eligibility criteria for free breakfast, lunch, or milk, as determined under the Richard B. Russell national school lunch act, 42 USC 1751 to 1769j.

    • (c) The pupil has applied to the provider of the college entrance examination component for a scholarship or fee waiver to cover the cost of the retake and that application has been denied.

    • (d) After taking the complete Michigan merit examination, the pupil has not already received a free retake of the college entrance examination component paid for either by this state or through a scholarship or fee waiver by the provider.

This act requires that each student should be administered the complete Michigan merit examination once and only once during 11th grade. The Michigan merit examination includes three portions: the College Board SAT, WorkKeys job skills, and Science and Social Studies M-STEP. For the purpose of this proposal we will be referencing the SAT portion of the Michigan merit exam as the “First SAT Free Initiative”.


Why this proposal will make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan, or a significant subgroup (by age, background, economic status, and/or region, etc.) of students in Michigan:

Our proposal targets low-income students who aim to attend elite universities, but think that their SAT score may hold them back from doing so. Studies prove that students perform better on their second attempt of the SAT or ACT, regardless of whether or not they have prepared in between taking the exams.

There are several barriers low-income students may face when attempting to obtain their best score. The SAT is only offered on seven different dates throughout an academic year, all of which are on a Saturday. This criteria can greatly limit a student’s access to the test. Signing up for the SAT requires a student to have the necessary funds, time, and access to a test center. The SAT costs $60 per attempt, 3 hours and 50 minutes without breaks to complete the test, and access to one of 60 test centers throughout the state of Michigan. Low-income students may have barriers such as their own job schedules to work around, lack of a ride to a testing center, lack of parental support towards college readiness, and lack of funding for education. With an increasing number of barriers, low-income students are at a severe disadvantage to their peers.

We are delighted that the state of Michigan included one free college entrance exam to all students beginning in 2007. However, as our proposal will further explain, additional test attempts yield higher scores, and therefore grant more opportunity. The SAT is a crucial component of a student’s college application. Colleges, especially elite colleges, utilize SAT scores as a way to compare students from high schools of different rigor all throughout the world. SAT scores can also be used to determine a student’s course placement or scholarship allowance. Therefore, it is crucial that low-income students are granted the same access to taking the SAT as their peers who are competing for spots in top colleges. Thus, offering the SAT for free twice to all students in the state of Michigan would allow this subgroup of students to potentially achieve their goal score and have a better chance at receiving admission into a top university.


How and where did you learn about the issues underlying your proposal?

Jackie and I began researching the impact of Michigan high school students’ SAT scores after she began tutoring local Ann Arbor students in preparation for the state exam on Tuesday, April 10th. Furthermore our knowledge was informed by many of the caucus discussions centered around K-12 Educational Achievement. Much of our knowledge regarding the issues underlying our proposal was informed by College Board research along with research on the ACT and the State of Michigan’s educational goals. Furthermore, this topic is covered readily in the press due to Michigan’s recent switch from proctoring the ACT to the SAT in 2016.


How has your service activity influenced your thinking about this proposal?

Jackie: Working with Books for a Benefit has opened my eyes to the inequity in resources for children in Michigan. I have seen firsthand the lack of resources students right around the corner in Ypsilanti have. The library build we are working on in Ypsilanti at the SOS Community Center will be, for some students, the only place they have to do their homework after school. Many of these students are living in homeless shelters, and do not have great educational support at home. The library at SOS Community Center will give these students a place they can go after school to study, do homework, read or even just relax.

I compare the experiences some of these students have to those of people I know at the University of Michigan, and there is a stark contrast. The median household income for a student at the University of Michigan is $154,000. Meanwhile, Michigan’s median household income is $52,492. Some students in Michigan may never have the chance to attend a university like the University of Michigan simply because they did not have a place to study for the SAT, or the funds to pay to take it a second time. I am passionate about creating more equity among students who desire to attend elite universities, like the University of Michigan, and I think offering the SAT twice for free in the state of Michigan is a great step in the right direction. Students, on average, will perform better on their second SAT and will have a greater chance of getting into a higher-ranked university with this higher score. My work with Books for a Benefit has led me to new realizations and has influenced my opinion on creating equity among students in Michigan greatly.

Amanda: Volunteering at the Neutral Zone in downtown Ann Arbor has allowed me to witness several of the educational inequities high school students face. Students visit the neutral zone after school to take part in educational activities, eat meals, and participate in recreation. These teenagers, many of whom are low-income, have been dealt a great deal of responsibility. Between school, work, and often managing a household there is very little time for the student to focus on their future educational careers. In my time at the Neutral Zone I have only heard the topic of college be discussed once; this was not even between two students, but a student and a staff member.

In proposing the addition of another free SAT my goal is to increase discussion around college achievement and to make college a bigger reality for all students. Achieving high SAT scores is directly correlated with the academic rigor of the colleges a student is accepted into. Because the SAT plays such a crucial role in admissions decisions, all students should have an equal opportunity to perform at their best on the test. Before leaving the Neutral Zone I hope to have many more discussions with staff members about how to talk about taking the SAT and how to integrate programs that help students prepare for college achievement tests.


Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:

Jackie Tsontakis & Amanda Ciancio Podcast: Factors Influencing K-12 Educational Achievement


Consultations: Talk directly with at least 3 real live people who have special knowledge about this topic or the impact your proposal would have, and summarize their comments. These may include people appearing in your media artifact (video, podcast, etc.).

CONSULTATION 1: Becca Mann, student who graduated from the University of Michigan School of Education, and is now on her third year working as a middle school English teacher. 99% of the students Becca teaches qualify for the free-reduced lunch program under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act. Therefore, she experiences educational inequity on a daily basis. Becca emphasized the importance of using school resources to support students in their academic endeavors when they are not receiving the necessary amount of academic support within their home environment. From our discussions with Becca we also learned that income inequity directly influences a student’s performance which can lead to a continuous vicious cycle with regards to educational equity.

CONSULTATION 2: Melissa Purdy, an admissions officer at the University of Michigan, gave us some insight on her perspective when it comes to taking the SAT multiple times. Ms. Purdy said that she has noticed students’ scores plateauing after the second or third time taking the SAT, but does recommend students to take the SAT more than once. She pointed us to a study which showed that students’ scores will increase from the PSAT to the SAT by an average of 60 points with no preparation in between (Figure A). The study also showed that students’ scores will improve by an average of 90 points when they do prepare between the two exams. She also pointed us to some free SAT prep resources, provided by the College Board and Khan Academy, which students who want to improve their SAT score between their first and second time should take advantage of.

Figure A:

CONSULTATION 3: Carolyn Bolthouse, a Grand Rapids MI high school counselor, provided us with a great deal of information regarding her experience providing SAT waivers to students and her views on offering the SAT for a second time. Mrs. Bolthouse strongly agreed that the students should be encouraged to take the test multiple times. Additionally she mentioned that while they have had success in setting students up with testing waivers, it does take additional time out of her day to day work. One interesting point of feedback we received from Mrs. Bolthouse was to be careful about the timing of a second SAT. She mentioned that seniors are typically focused on homecoming, school, and work at the beginning of the fall semester. Therefore she recommended that the test be administered in early August in order to decrease distraction. One other point of criticism she offered was that she fears that students may take the initial test less seriously if they knew that they would be granted a secondary attempt a few months later.



Studies have shown that students who take the SAT more than once perform significantly better with each additional time they take the exam. In a study conducted by the Office of Research at the College Board, the average score increases among students who took the exam in the fall of their junior year and again in the fall of their senior year were 19 points for verbal and 21 points for math (Figure B). This information is relevant to students in Michigan because the state just recently just switched from covering the cost of the ACT once per student to offering the SAT once free of charge to the student. In a similar respect, 2015 ACT data shows that repeat-testers’ latest scores had an average score 2.9 points higher than their single-test counterparts (Figure C). While the State of Michigan is already ahead of the curve as one of only 8 states that provide college entrance exams to all students for free, we believe the state can go even further. Our proposal is targeting low-income students who aspire to gain admission into an elite college, which we have defined as a 4-year university with multiple major/minor options. For each student, “elite college” might have a different meaning, but we consider these universities to be any one which the student may not have been able to get into with their first attempt at taking the SAT. The student’s second try however, assuming they get a higher score as data suggests they would, might give them a better chance at being admitted. Students who come from lower income households often cannot cover the cost of an additional SAT exam, which has proven potential to lead to a higher score. While there are free test vouchers available, these vouchers are difficult to access and do not guarantee that a student has the support or resources needed to schedule their tests or arrive to the test centers on set dates. As a result, low-income students have less of an opportunity to increase their scores and achieve their best possible score on the SAT.

Perhaps a place for further research might be looking at what contributes to a higher score on a student’s second or third SAT. For instance, getting a higher score might rely on a student studying more between the two tests. This information would be useful in narrowing down our proposal and deciding if there should be different solutions for different groups of students (depending on availability of study resources, demographics, past academic achievement, etc.). We also plan to look into the cost of offering a second SAT to all students in Michigan, as we understand this will be a considerable investment for the Michigan Department of Education. Additionally, we might look into the differences in cost if we were to offer the second SAT as optional rather than required for all students in the state of Michigan. Overall, we believe that access to multiple SAT testings should be comparable among all students in Michigan, despite household income. We hope to propose a solution to create more equity in this process and allow students across Michigan to have increased potential to achieve their best possible SAT score.

Figure B:

Figure C:


Potential Solutions: Describe three reasonable, feasible potential solutions or approaches that would help address this problem.

SOLUTION 1: Expand & Revise Current SAT Waiver Program

The SAT College Board currently offers up to two vouchers to each student whose family income meets the requirements for the National School Lunch Program or government assistance. These vouchers allow a student to retake the SAT at an outside test center for free up to two additional times. Waivers are provided by a school’s counselor. Waivers do not cover cancellation fees and assume that a student’s counselor has the necessary documents and time to request these waivers.17

We propose that the waiver program be expanded to students of all socioeconomic backgrounds and that this process no longer be handled by a school’s counselor. Students who may not qualify for government assistance can also encounter barriers to retaking the SAT, such as lack of parental support. In order to remove the amount of pressure put on a school’s counselor (assuming they have one) to encourage students to take advantage of the waiver program, we recommend that the waivers be distributed through an online application process. This process would allow students to note their reason for requesting a waiver in a quick and reliable way. Funding for this solution would be provided through College Board and the Michigan State government.

SOLUTION 2: Provide Second SAT for Free in School

Schools in the state of Michigan currently offer one SAT for free to each student during the spring of their junior year. This test is administered through the SAT’s “School Day Program”. This program has opened up doors for many students from low-income households who may not have otherwise been able to afford to take a college entrance exam. The state of Michigan allows each student (not receiving government assistance) to take the SAT once free of charge, resulting in College Board fees every time he or she would like to take the test again.

We propose that offering a second free SAT in the fall of a student’s senior year would eliminate the stigma of the waiver system previously mentioned. Furthermore, this would reduce the barriers faced by a student who may not be able to find a ride to an alternative testing center or may not have flexibility on Saturday’s to take the test. Students would feel less embarrassed to take the exam at a time when all other students are taking it rather than using a waiver which is allocated specifically for students with financial need. This would also create a norm of taking the exam twice across school districts and encourage students to prepare to take the exam two times and learn from their first try. Additionally, students might experience less test anxiety walking into the SAT knowing that it is expected and encouraged for them to take it a second time with the rest of their peers. Funding for this solution would be provided by the Michigan State government, specifically within the education budget.

SOLUTION 3: Mandate Use of Score Choice System

In 2009, College Board instituted Score Choice, a system that was created to eliminate student test anxiety, by allowing each student to select the scores that are provided to certain colleges. On the other hand, many colleges and scholarship programs require students to report all scores from each time they take the SAT. This can create decreased motivation for a student to retake the test due to fear of achieving lower scores that could then hinder their acceptance rates. There are currently 134 four-year universities that require students to report all scores - therefore opting out of Score Choice.

We propose that the Score Choice system be used by all Michigan colleges. While the Score Choice system greatly benefits students by allowing them to select the SAT scores they would like to send to the schools they apply to, there are many colleges and scholarship programs which still require students to send all scores. There are currently four colleges in Michigan that opt out of Score Choice: Hope College, Andrews University, Cornerstone University and Sacred Heart Major Seminary. While these four schools enroll several students from the state of Michigan, we recognize that many Michigan students attend schools outside of the state as well. While we believe it would be viable to begin with only schools in the state of Michigan, we hope to expand this solution to schools nationwide.


Reaction or advice from a Topic Coordinator:

You must solicit a critique from a topic coordinator, and explain the impact that advice has had on the final draft of this proposal.

Our team met with Austin Priebe to solicit feedback regarding Solution 2 and our prospectus in order to inform our final proposal. Austin agreed with us that Solution 2 was our strongest and most realistic option moving forward. During our meeting Austin really pushed us to tease out what it would cost the state of Michigan to offer a second free SAT and where in the budget this funding would be pulled from. Austin helped us to brainstorm creative ways to justify funding such as offering to sell data back to the College Board to use in its pursuit of other state contracts. Additionally, Austin helped us to better understand the formalities of a proposal and how to manipulate our preambulatory and operative clauses. Austin’s feedback inspired us to make informed assumptions and develop a pilot program to pitch within our proposal.


Research Process:

Describe your research process — indicate who you talked to (including but not limited to consultants), what you read, what your thinking was, how it changed over time, and how your consultants changed your thinking. This description of your research process definitely could include “dead ends,” or ideas you had that didn’t ultimately bear fruit.  In short, we want to know what you did and how it led to your legislation, and we also want you to give us a window into your thought process.

Our research process started with looking at data regarding students’ score changes between their first and second tries taking the SAT. We found many studies which proved that a student’s second time taking the exam will result in a higher score. We also looked more into the current offerings for low-income students who want to take the SAT in the state of Michigan. We learned about the waiver program, which is detailed in solution 1, along with the free SAT offered to all Michigan students, which is detailed in solution 2. We looked into all the laws surrounding the issue as well, in order to give ourselves a well-rounded perspective of the state’s current efforts to create equity in college readiness among students from diverse backgrounds within the state of Michigan.

Next, we spoke with a teacher from Michigan who has experience with inequity in the current education system. 99% of her students qualify for the free lunch program and come from low-income families. She recognizes the lack of support these students might have when it comes to their education and preparation for college. Thus, offering the SAT for free a second time to all students might allow for more equity in the process. We also spoke to an admissions counselor from the University of Michigan, which would be considered one of the elite schools where we see less low-income students being admitted. The admissions counselor, Melissa Purdy, gave us relevant data to help prove that taking the SAT twice does in fact improve a student’s score (regardless of the studying done in between or lack thereof). Our final consultation was with Michigan high school guidance counselor Carolyn Bolthouse. Carolyn helped us to better understand the time restrictions a high school guidance counselor faced and the multiple roles they tackle daily outside of SAT prep. Furthermore, Carolyn encouraged us to be intentional with deciding when to offer a secondary SAT due to student attitudes and motivation at the beginning of the fall semester.

We then had a meeting with Jeff Kupperman and Jay McDowell which helped guide us in narrowing down our focus, and consider what potential roadblocks we might face in implementing each solution we came up with. We decided that the proposal was not aimed to help all students in Michigan necessarily, but rather was focused on helping low-income students who would like to attend elite universities but might not have the resources to pay for a second SAT and therefore achieve the score they need to get into such universities. In this meeting, we also discussed the feasibility of each potential solution, which helped us decide that one of our solutions (solution 2) was best suited as a proposal to the state legislature, considering solutions 1 and 3 may not be in the scope of their responsibilities. Lastly, this meeting helped guide us in the right direction when considering the financial aspect of the proposal.

Following the meeting, we calculated a range for how much solution 2 would potentially cost by doing research on the number of students who take the SAT in Michigan. We could not find information on how much the government would have to pay to offer the SAT for free for a second time to all students, considering the College Board might offer this at a discount. However, without this information we were still able to calculate how much this would cost at the normal cost of taking the SAT ($60 per exam per student). We were also able to calculate the effect this investment would have on the current school budget if the College Board would not provide any sort of discount (thus, providing a high-end estimation).

After speaking with our consultants, we were surprised to find out that there is not one single consistent dialogue surrounding the SAT process. While all individuals we’ve spoken with stress the importance of performing well on the SAT in order to influence college decisions, few people have an exact recipe for success. The problem we found in this was that students may often receive mixed messages about how many times they should take the SAT, how influential even small increases can be, and what to do to prepare. Teachers, high school counselors, and admissions officers must begin to tell the same story. We believe that offering the SAT a second time will allow students to view their college entrance exams as more of a journey, rather than a one time chance to prove yourself. Furthermore, an additional exam will help begin to build out the true SAT story.


Author Contributions:

Please delineate--in detail--who made what contributions to the process and to the finished proposal? Who took on which responsibilities in researching ideas, drafting language, etc.?

For this proposal our team consulted with one another on all contributions. During our initial planning stages we completed our media artifact in tangent with one another and only began to split up different portions of each deliverable as we moved towards our solutions. We both had very distinct service activities that further helped to educate our work together. For our consultations, Jackie contacted admissions director, Melissa Purdy and Amanda contacted high school guidance counselor, Carolyn Bolthouse. Together, we both contacted middle school English teacher, Becca Mann. In drafting our final proposal, we both solicited feedback from our professors and TC, Austin Priebe. Jackie took lead on calculating the costs of our proposed pilot program, whereas Amanda took lead locating the current laws surrounding our proposal and introducing the issue. Lastly, we worked side by side to construct the language for our formal proposal. We both were happy to support one another throughout the process and are proud of the way we brought our work and insights together.



The sections below should comprise your final proposal language, submitted for consideration by your peers and potential inclusion in the MSC Platform.

Preambulatory Clauses

These set up the PROBLEM, but not the solution.

1. WHEREAS.... Deeply disturbed by the fact that the state of Michigan does not provide free access to the SAT more than once although 44% of Michigan students come from low-income families (defined as a household income of less than $48,072 for a family of four).

2. WHEREAS.... Alarmed by the fact that the 2017 Michigan student average SAT score was 78 points below the national average of 1083.

3. WHEREAS.... Having examined that 3-year community college success rates in Michigan are 22.3% versus 4-year university success rates are 39.4%.

4. WHEREAS… Taking into account that community colleges offer open admission not contingent on a student’s GPA and college entrance exam scores, and elite universities require competitive GPA and entrance exam scores.

5. WHEREAS… Realizing that students who do not attend and complete schooling at a 4-year university have less success finding jobs.

Operative Clauses

These describe in detail, the solution you are proposing (not the problem itself; those should go in the "Whereas" clauses above).


1. Offering the SAT free for a second time would directly benefit the 44% of students in Michigan who come from low-income families who might not have the funds to pay for their child to take the SAT a second time, and achieve their highest possible score.

2. By offering the second SAT twice, students will be able to achieve a higher score than their first try, as data has shown. The College Board has released data which shows that students who take the SAT twice have seen an average score increase of 43 points regardless of whether or not they studied in between. Meanwhile, those who study for at least 20 hours in between the two tries see an average score increase of 115 points.

3. By offering the SAT for free a second time, students will have a higher chance of being admitted into a more elite university. Therefore, more students in Michigan will graduate, as 4-year universities have a higher graduation rate than community colleges across the nation.

4. In order for a student to attend one of the five major Michigan public universities they must achieve average SAT scores of the following: Western Michigan University: 1140, Central Michigan University: 1140, Eastern Michigan University: 1100, Michigan State University:1155, University of Michigan: 1440. Community colleges on the other hand do not have set standards for admissions criteria. Therefore, in order to ensure that graduation rates continue to rise in the State of Michigan, we must prioritize 4-year universities, and therefore SAT scores.

5. If more students in Michigan do better on the SAT, they will increase their chances of going to a 4-year university. With more graduates from 4-year universities, more Michigan residents will have jobs, as data shows that unemployment rates are lower among this group when compared to those who have attended 2-year universities of not completed college (Figure D).

Figure D:


What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?

1. The Michigan Department of Education’s budget is already thin and Michigan’s K-12 education is already struggling, so how can we justify allocating funds towards a second SAT rather than other parts of the education budget, such as benefiting other intercity schools?

2. Some college have stopped using the SAT as part of a student’s application, so why should we emphasize the SAT if colleges are not?

3. If students know they have the option to take the SAT for free a second time, will they be less motivated to do well on their first try?


Costs and Funding:

What will your proposal cost (in direct expenses, lost tax revenue, lost economic opportunity, and/or non-monetary costs)? How will you pay for your proposed legislation? Where will/could the funding for your proposal come from?  Who might object to dedicating resources to your proposal (competing interests)?

    We recommend starting off with a pilot study to (1) assess whether or not students take advantage of the second SAT offered and (2) further prove that students will perform better on their second SAT than their first. The pilot study should be conducted in two counties: one which is primarily low-income (Roscommon County) and one which has a mix of low and high income families (Huron County). We chose these two counties by analyzing median family income and the average percentage of students qualifying for free or reduced lunches (Figure E). Conducting the pilot study in these two counties will allow for an assessment of how many students coming from more affluent families actually take advantage of the second free SAT.

We predict that a lower percentage of students from Huron County will opt in to taking the second free SAT, as they might have the income to pay for the SAT on a date they prefer rather than taking it in school. If this is true, the cost of offering the second free SAT to all students in Michigan will be lower than offering the first one during the second semester of their junior year. Since this first one is required and the second one we are proposing would not be required, we are predicting that offering the second SAT free as an option to students will be less expensive than the first SAT free initiative. We calculated the total cost of offering the additional SAT in these counties by multiplying the cost of the SAT exam with the essay portion ($60) by the number of high school seniors in the county (total number of high school students divided by 4).

This cost estimate is on the high end, considering we are assuming the College Board would give the Michigan Department of Education a discount in exchange for sharing the data from the study. The data from the study would be useful to the College Board, as they have not published data on students’ score improvements from the first to the second time taking the SAT in several years. The ACT has published more recent data on this, and the College Board would find the data from this pilot study useful in their efforts to compete with the ACT. We did not assume a discount for the pilot study since it would occur on a much smaller scale than offering the SAT free for a second time to all students in Michigan. However, we understand there are costs associated with proctoring the exam as well which might balance out a presumed discount. Thus, we used the $60 per exam per student in our calculations to find that the total cost of the pilot study would be $57,000.

Considering the education budget in the state of Michigan is currently $12.3 billion and has been increasing annually since 2011, we believe this pilot study is important enough to fit into the budget at 0.00046% of the total education budget (Figure F). The study would help determine whether or not providing the second SAT free would help students to improve their scores, and therefore potentially get into more elite universities. According to The Detroit News, Michigan’s current contract with the College Board costs about $5.7 million annually to offer the SAT to all high school juniors for the first time. This contract cost about half of what offering the ACT to all high school juniors in Michigan did (before the state decided to switch to the SAT). Thus, if the Department of Education decided to go forward with offering the SAT free for a second time to all students, it would cost less than they would have paid to offer the ACT only once (assuming not all students take advantage of the second SAT offered). We think the pilot study will be useful in determining whether or not our hypothesis, that not all students will take advantage of the second free SAT if it is optional, stands true.

Overall, we think this pilot study is a great first step in the right direction to afford students a better opportunity of achieving their highest possible SAT score, and therefore become accepted into a better college or university. With a higher percentage of students getting into more elite universities, Michigan will see a return in the form of more college graduates and higher employment rates. This, in turn, will pay off as we hope students who are able to achieve success at higher rates due to this additional SAT provided by the state will give back to the community which supported them into their current position.

    Figure E:

Figure F:


References are included as footnotes throughout this Google document.



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