Gates Foundation Award to Study Test-Optional Admissions Impact

Dominique Baker

DALLAS (SMU) – A multi-university research team that includes Dominique Baker, assistant professor of education policy in SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development, has been awarded a $1.4 million grant from the Gates Foundation to examine the impact test-optional admission policies in higher education had on college access and equity during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Baker joined the SMU faculty in 2016. Her research focuses on how education policy affects and shapes the access and success of minoritized students in higher education. She primarily investigates student financial aid, affirmative action and admissions policies, as well as policies that influence the ability to create an inclusive and equitable campus climate.

The study, led by the University of Maryland, will look at whether the move to alter admission policies improved college access or equity during the pandemic. The non-profit National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) estimates that more than 1,800 colleges and universities used test-optional admission policies in the Fall of 2020.

Baker’s research has been published in a variety of journals, including the American Educational Research Journal, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Journal of Higher Education, Journal of College Student Development, and Teachers College Record. Her work and expertise have also been highlighted by The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Public Radio, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Inside Higher Ed, amongst others.


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