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University of California Ends ACT, SAT Testing For Admissions And Scholarships
Exam - stock photo Exam yenwen via Getty Images
yenwen via Getty Images

The University of California announced a legal decision Friday that said its system will stop considering SAT and ACT scores in decisions for admissions and scholarships.

As reported by The New York Times, the decision brings a long dispute to a conclusion. In 2019, a group of students, advocacy groups and the Compton Unified School District brought a lawsuit against the University of California system seeking to end its use of the tests to determine admissions.

The Times reported, “The plaintiffs said that the college entrance tests are biased against poor and mainly Black and Hispanic students — and that by basing admissions decisions on those tests, the system illegally discriminates against applicants on the basis of their race, wealth and disability.”

According to the Times, the College Board, which makes the SAT, said in January that it would get rid of subject tests and the optional essay portion.

In the settlement decided on Friday, the university agreed that SAT or ACT scores would not be used in the future. 

The settlement stated: 

For students applying for entry between Fall 2021 and Spring 2025, no University of California (“UC”) campus will consider SAT or ACT scores in determining whether to offer admission. SAT and ACT scores, if submitted by students, will not be provided to admissions readers. 

It added that “SAT or ACT scores will not be used in determining whether to award UC-funded or UC-administered scholarships.”

Last year, the university system had held a vote and agreed to get rid of the tests over time as many brought complaints against the use of such tests in deciding admission. Schools in the University of California system had already decided that the tests would be optional for people applying to school last year for entry this fall because of complications arising from the coronavirus pandemic. 

After that decision, the California system’s board voted to keep the optional requirement for another year, “and said it would not consider scores for the next two years in the case of in-state applicants. In those cases, standardized tests would be used only to award scholarships, determine course placement and assess out-of-state students,” per the Times. 

Students then sued the university and lawyers said that sending in the scores — even in a voluntary manner — would harm students, especially those with disabilities who were not able to take the standardized exams during the pandemic. 

An Alameda County Superior Court judge gave a preliminary injunction, stating that the university system was not allowed to consider SAT and ACT scores in admissions decisions, even if the exams were optional.

The Times reported:

The University of California complied with the decision, but strongly disagreed and filed an appeal, a spokeswoman said in a statement. At the same time, the university system explored the possibility of a settlement “that would provide certainty for students and their families, counselors, and high schools,” the statement said. 

The two sides came to an agreement and the settlement was reached last week and approved on Thursday. 

“Today’s settlement ensures that the university will not revert to its planned use of the SAT and ACT — which its own regents have admitted are racist metrics,” said Amanda Mangaser Savage, a lawyer representing the students. 

The settlement stated that if the system “chooses a new exam for use in undergraduate admissions in the future, it will consider access for students with disabilities in the design and implementation of any such exam.”

According to the Times, “SAT and ACT scores for the University of California may now be used only for the limited purposes of fulfilling the English subject-matter requirement, course placement or advising after students are admitted — if applicants choose to submit them, the university said.”

Supporters of the testing requirements say that the inequality in education is the problem, not testing. The College Board creates the SAT and argued that admitting students based only on grades leads to more options for students who have more advantages than other students. 

“Real inequities exist in American education, and they are reflected in every measure of academic achievement, including the SAT,” the College Board’s executive director for communications, Zach Goldberg, said in a statement. “The SAT itself is not a racist instrument. Every question is rigorously reviewed for evidence of bias and any question that could favor one group over another is discarded.”

The University announced in January that its fall 2021 undergraduate application numbers were the highest in its history, even in the middle of the pandemic.

It said:

The proportion of applications from underrepresented students for freshman admission remained steady at 45.1 percent this year, inching up from 45 percent last year. Campuses saw significant growth of freshman applications from African American students, with an increase of 1,505 applications or 21.8 percent, as well as Chicano/Latino students, with a jump of 5,250 or 12.2 percent.

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