KANSAS CITY — The University of Missouri-Kansas City has become the latest school to stop requiring students to take the SAT or ACT to qualify for admission.

The school will put more weight on factors such as school involvement, class load and personal essays to find students who "will be a good fit for UMKC," said Alice Arredondo, the director of admissions. She said research has "indicated that high school grades are a more reliable overall predictor of college-level potential than are standardized tests." 

Since 2004, more than 1,000 schools have adopted a test-optional admissions policy, including more than 45 that have done so in the past year. In announcing the change Wednesday, UMKC became the first of the University of Missouri System's four campuses to take the step, reports  The Kansas City Star.

"We are doing this because this approach has been shown to be both more reliable in identifying students who can succeed and more fair to all applicants," UMKC Chancellor Mauli Agrawal said.

Twenty-two-year-old Sadie Billings, who attended high school in Creighton, Missouri, said the approach would have been a "game changer" for her. Although Billings maintained a 4.0 high school grade point average, she wasn't able to score above a 21 on the ACT, which was the cutoff for admission to the University of Missouri-Kansas City, despite taking the test six times.

She was eventually admitted to UMKC on a provisional basis, and the communications major is on track to graduate this May. She already has been accepted into graduate school at Texas Tech University. 

She said she grew up in a low-income family, and had to spend "a lot of hours" working at a pizza shop after school to pay the $46 for each of those admissions exams.

"No one's future should be determined by a test score," she said.

There are differences in how schools grade their students, but a recent study by the American Educational Research Association, a nonprofit research group, found that high school grades are a powerful tool for gauging a student's readiness for college, regardless of which high school a student attends.

However, the College Board, a nonprofit that administers the SAT, says evidence shows that the best way to predict college success is to review both grades and test scores. And many of the elite private colleges and universities still require applicants to take the SAT or ACT.

UMKC will continue to require test results for admission to certain specialized programs, such as the Conservatory of Music and Dance and its six-year medical school program.