University of Michigan: U-M Rackham Graduate School to discontinue use of GRE in its PhD admissions

The University of Michigan’s Rackham Graduate School will discontinue the use of the Graduate Record Examination general test in Rackham Ph.D. admissions decisions, beginning with the 2022-2023 admissions cycle.

Based on broad university feedback, Dean Mike Solomon announced the decision, which had the unanimous support of the Rackham Executive Board.

Rackham oversees approximately 100 Ph.D. programs on the Ann Arbor and Dearborn campuses. This decision will not affect admissions practices in other doctoral programs offered by the university.

A proposal to eliminate consideration of GRE scores in Rackham Ph.D. admissions was circulated in September 2021 to allow ample time for discussion and feedback from graduate faculty, doctoral programs and other campus partners.

The proposal was motivated by Rackham’s ongoing commitment to holistic admissions practices to recruit, admit and foster the success of the best students in Ph.D. programs at U-M and by understanding that the GRE general test is a barrier to achieving those goals.

“Through dialogue with faculty colleagues, including those both for and against the proposal, I have concluded that the costs of using the GRE in Ph.D. admissions outweigh the benefits,” Solomon said. “Many of our programs have, over the last decade, already eliminated the GRE from their admissions processes with very good outcomes.

“Additionally, our experience in not using the GRE throughout Rackham during the pandemic was positive and demonstrated that we have the capacity to make this change.”

In discussions with faculty, Solomon cited the following factors behind the proposal:

Financial costs of the GRE potentially deter well-qualified applicants to Rackham Ph.D. programs. The cost is currently $205.
Using the scores can introduce inequity based on race, ethnicity, gender, first-generation status and socioeconomic status into doctoral admissions processes in a manner that is not well controlled.
The benefits of using the GRE in Ph.D. admissions have not been demonstrated—goals of Ph.D. education like research accomplishment, production of the dissertation and degree completion have not been shown to correspond to GRE scores.
Last November, graduate faculty provided feedback about the proposal electronically or through open faculty forums. In addition, Rackham program chairs and directors discussed the proposal at their fall meetings.

Other members of the campus community had the opportunity to provide feedback electronically. Ninety-eight percent of Ph.D. programs indicated whether they supported the proposal or not—with 90% of those respondents in favor. This feedback was collected and provided to the Rackham Executive Board—the faculty governing body of the graduate school—ahead of their recommendation to Solomon.

“It was gratifying to see that so many programs at Michigan had been grappling with these issues and had come to their own conclusions about the opportunity cost of the GRE, either through their research or their experience during the pandemic,” said Rackham Associate Dean Anna Mapp. “Our conversations were also extremely helpful in understanding potential barriers and challenges.”

To aid programs that will be changing their admissions processes because of the decision, Rackham will provide support over three years, including consultation, funding and research. It will also reevaluate the decision to discontinue the use of the GRE after that period.

“I was incredibly pleased to see such a broad consensus across our campus to discontinue the use of the GRE as one method to help increase diversity, equity and excellence in graduate education,” said Rackham Assistant Dean Ethriam Brammer.

Removing the GRE, he said, will reduce barriers to applying to Rackham’s doctoral programs, thereby increasing access and opportunity for domestic and international students from low-income backgrounds.

“By leaving these scores behind, the rich information of the doctoral application can be reviewed in ways that are truly holistic and responsive to the broad demographics of our applicants,” Solomon said.

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