Southeast Announces Expansion of Test Optional Admissions, Scholarships


Southeast Missouri State University today announced the expansion of its test optional admissions and scholarship offerings available to beginning freshmen entering Southeast in fall 2021 to increase access to higher education.

Prospective students will now be admitted to Southeast with a 2.75 cumulative high school grade point average and the required high school core curriculum. Students do not need an ACT or SAT score to be admitted and can self-report their academic record when they apply. Additionally, Southeast announced the expansion of institutional scholarships now available without a test score and increased the value of academic scholarships that students can obtain as test optional.

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Dr. Carlos Vargas, president of Southeast Missouri State University.

“This expansion of test optional admissions and scholarships, and elimination of our application fee, are among many actions the University has taken to provide greater access to higher education,” said Southeast President Dr. Carlos Vargas. “Expansion of the test optional program is even more important today as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the cancellation of many ACT and SAT testing dates.”

Dr. Debbie Below, vice president for enrollment management and student success, added that test optional admissions have become increasingly more important to students and their families across the college admissions landscape.

“Southeast first piloted test optional admissions in 2018 for beginning freshmen in fall 2019, making Southeast one of the first public universities in Missouri to embrace the concept,” Below said. “We’re extremely pleased to transition to test optional admissions and scholarship offerings to help reduce barriers to a college education.”

Meeting Retention Goals

Southeast believes in the test optional philosophy as one of many strategies towards student-centered admissions and enhancing student success, Vargas said. He elaborated, saying Southeast set a goal in 2016 to retain 80% of first-time, full-time students within six years, and in fall 2019, Southeast set a record-high 75.3% retention rate.

Lenell Hahn, Southeast director of Admissions.

“I am pleased to share that, although it is not yet official, we are optimistic that Southeast will have reached another new milestone in the retention of first year students this fall,” he said. “As of the beginning of this semester, 80.1% of first-time, full-time students have re-enrolled.  I want to congratulate our students, faculty and staff on their resilience and what they are together accomplishing.”

Increasing Diversity

He also highlighted this fall’s beginning freshmen class which includes 1,510 students and is about the same size as last year. Among the beginning freshmen, Southeast has seen a 24% increase in minority student enrollment, including a 26% rise in African American students and 67% growth in Hispanic students from this time last year.

“At Southeast, we take great pride in serving students from all backgrounds, and we will always strive to be a place where students and employees from all walks of life feel welcome, respected and appreciated,” Vargas said. “One way in which we work toward this goal is by ensuring we are an institution that is accessible and affordable to all.”

Expanding Access

The institution’s expanded 2021-2022 scholarship program to assist students with the cost of their education is another important part of the University’s efforts in reaching its student success goals.

  • Southeast’s Copper Dome Scholarship Program has increased the percentage of first-year students receiving scholarship aid from 30% to 70%, and this year’s program will increase the test optional maximum scholarship value from $1,000 to $3,000.
  • Southeast reduced the academic requirements to renew these scholarships, and award values are progressive, that is, they increase every year they are renewed.
  • The prestigious and competitive $10,000 President’s Scholarship will now offer test optional eligibility to apply.
  • Southeast launched its Will To Do Award that guarantees eligible Pell students from Missouri the opportunity to attend Southeast and pay zero dollars in tuition and general fees.

“With these program enhancements, Southeast is recognizing a student’s cumulative high school grade point average and core curriculum as excellent indicators of student success and placing less importance on a standardized test score,” said Director of Admissions Lenell Hahn. “Since fall 2019, students have had an opportunity to earn several Southeast scholarships based solely on their cumulative high school GPA.”

For more information on Southeast’s test optional approach, visit Southeast is hosting in person campus visits for prospective students. To schedule a campus tour or register for a Fall Visit Day event, visit. Fall visit days will be held on Friday, Oct. 2, Friday, Oct. 23, and Saturday, Oct. 24.  Students and families also are encouraged to contact the Office of Admissions at (573) 651-2590 or visit