ACT Fee Waivers and Test-Day Absenteeism

Taking the ACT test is an important step in the college-going process. Over 1,500 colleges across the US educating approximately 1.5 million first-time degree-seeking undergraduates either require, recommend, or consider test scores as a criterion for admission decisions. Although ACT contracts with certain states and school districts to offer the ACT test during the school day, many college bound students continue to take the test on one of seven national test dates on Saturdays throughout the year. The registration fees for taking the ACT on a national test date—at $55 for the ACT without writing and $70 for the ACT with writing for the 2020-21 school year—can be a financial burden for students from low-income families, thus potentially limiting their access to many colleges across the US.

To remove this financial burden and enable test-taking as well as increased subsequent college attendance among students from low income families, ACT provides eligible students with fee waivers to use when registering for the ACT. These fee waivers include free access to ACT online test prep products, free additional score reports to send to colleges, and college application fee waivers that ACT encourages colleges and universities to accept. The fee waiver program is widely used by high school students. Between the 2014-15 and 2018-19 school years, over 2.3 million eligible students used fee waivers to register for more than 3.1 million ACT tests, for a total of $161.4 million in waived registration fees.

ACT Research and Policy have published a series of reports on fee waiver usage in the 2014-15 through 2018-19 academic years. The series covers the Use of Fee Waivers to Register for the ACTTest-Day Absenteeism Among Students Who Registered for the ACT with a Fee Waiver, and the Test History of Test-Day Absentees Who Registered for the ACT with a Fee Waiver. The final report in the series, In Their Own Words: Reasons for Test-Day Absenteeism Among Students Who Registered for the ACT with a Fee Waiver, addresses students’ self-reported reasons for being absent and suggests potential ways stakeholders can help improve attendance rates for students registering for the ACT with a fee waiver.