MCAS Presents New Question to Seniors

Test optional but linked to scholarships

Dylan Wolter ('22), Orbit Contributor

Current seniors are facing the question of whether to pursue the scholarships linked to the annual MCAS assessments, since the pandemic prompted the state to remove the test as a graduation requirement and declare it optional for members of the class of 2022.

Although students would have to take both the English and Math sections of the test, which is equivalent to missing almost four days of classes, the scholarship opportunities are enticing for those applying to a Massachusetts State School, such as UMass Amherst, UMass Lowell, Fitchburg State, and Salem State, and could help in their financial support as they pursue a post-secondary education. 

According to the Office of Student Financial Assistance of Massachusetts website, if a student receives an individual award they may receive up to $1,400 – $1,800 off their tuition at a University of Massachusetts while their tuition “shall be no more than the resident undergraduate tuition rate” at a State or Community College within Massachusetts.  

Ms. Keefe of the Guidance Department stated, “I am recommending kids to take it just because of the scholarship opportunities and because we have just such a large number of students that go to UMass schools or state schools. I think last year 50% of our kids applied to UMass Amherst and that is just Amherst alone.” In a follow up statement, Ms. Keefe offered, “I know that last year 35% of our students actually went to a Umass school or a state school.” 

Based on the guidelines stated on the Office of Student Financial Assistance website, in order to be eligible for the scholarship, a student must score in the advanced category on the assessments while also having a combined MCAS score in the assessments that ranks in the top 25% of their school district. 

As the award is based on the top 25%, the more students that take the assessment will also impact how many are eligible for receiving it. While one may not necessarily get an award, the dedision to take it or not could impact if a friend or classmate gets a scholarship. 

“It’s a nice opportunity to be able to get that money, but do I necessarily agree with the fact that money is tied to MCAS scores? Not quite,” said Ms. Keefe. “I definitely have mixed feelings about MCAS because it’s important to hold education to a certain standard. I don’t think it fully ecompassses what kids learn and some of the important things, so it’s a hard balance to make.” 

Students are put in an interesting position this year, particularly as the assessment is optional. While they don’t have to take the assessment to graduate they may pass up scholarship opportunities so it is up to them on whether or not they take MCAS once again.