The University of California, the group of ten research universities that includes UC Berkeley and UCLA among its members, announced that it would be relaxing its undergraduate admissions requirements amidst coronavirus concerns.
In a statement Tuesday morning, UC President Janet Napolitano called the decision, which was approved by the board of regents Monday evening, an “ethical imperative.”
“The COVID-19 outbreak is a disaster of historic proportions disrupting every aspect of our lives, including education for high school students, among others,” said Napolitano. “The University’s flexibility at this crucial time will ensure prospective students aiming for UC get a full and fair shot — no matter their current challenges.”
The decision temporarily suspends the university system’s letter grade requirements for “A-G Courses,” a collection of 15 courses all California students must pass with a C or better in order to even be considered for admission. The suspension applies to courses taken during the winter, spring and summer semesters.
The university system has also suspended the standardized testing requirement for prospective students, as the regular testing schedule for assessments like the SAT has been disrupted.
“We want to help alleviate the tremendous disruption and anxiety that is already overwhelming prospective students due to COVID-19,” said John A. Perez, chair of the Board of Regents. “By removing artificial barriers and decreasing stressors – including suspending the use of the SAT – for this unprecedented moment in time, we hope there will be less worry for our future students.”
The decision to suspend the testing requirement comes after The College Board, the private company that administers the SAT, informed higher education officials that the company plans to offer the test on a different, not-yet-announced schedule allowing students who still want to take it to do so after the threat of coronavirus has passed, reports The Washington Post.
“We’ll be flexible in making the SAT available in school and out of school as soon as the public health situation allows,” David Coleman, the chief executive of The College Board, told higher education officials in a memo, reports the news agency.
The university system, which has over 200,000 undergraduate students enrolled across nine campuses, has previously flirted with scrapping the standardized testing requirement all together.
As The Los Angeles Times reported in October, standardized tests are “increasingly seen as an unfair admission barrier to students who don’t test well or don’t have the means to access or pay for pricey test preparation.” That said, the LA Times also acknowledges that standardized tests are also “predictive of college performance, particularly at selective universities.”
While the UC system is currently conducting research to determine whether eliminating the requirement will be a good idea, Vice Chairwoman of the board of regents Cecilia Estolana declared that the standardized tests use a “clearly flawed methodology that has a discriminatory impact,” and that no further research is needed, the news agency reports.
According to The Los Angeles Times, Napolitano has claimed that the new coronavirus measures will only be temporary, saying the move is “intended as an accommodation and not a permanent policy shift, and does not foreclose future Board policy actions with respect to the use of standardized tests.”