University of California will end use of SAT and ACT in admissions

Today’s decision by California Board of Regents will likely influence other campuses to reconsider tests
In a vote today, the University of California Board of Regents eliminated use of the ACT/SAT for admission to its nine prestigious campuses.

In a vote today, the University of California Board of Regents eliminated use of the ACT/SAT for admission to its nine prestigious campuses.

In a decision expected to influence schools across the country, the University of California system will no longer require the SAT or ACT for admissions to its nine prestigious campuses, including UCLA and UC Berkeley.

The Mercury News reports the decision came after six hours of debate by the UC Board of Regents. The paper reported:

By a unanimous vote — and after six hours of debate — the regents supported president Janet Napolitano's proposal to phase out the test that has been used in the college admissions process for a century.

Napolitano cited as her reasoning "the correlation of the SAT and the ACT to the socio-economic level of the student, and in some case, the ethnicity of the student."

The elimination of the standardized admissions tests was a year in the making and had strong advocates on both sides. In November, UC Berkeley chancellor Carol Christ said she supported abandoning the SAT/ACT requirement. In December, the Compton Unified School District filed a lawsuit against the University of California, alleging the testing mandate discriminates against college applicants with disabilities, low-income students and racial and ethnic minorities.

But in February, the Academic Senate Standardized Testing Task Force recommended against making standardized tests optional for public college applicants in California. The task force, made up of faculty, called the SAT and ACT more reliable predictors of student performance in college than high school grade point average, especially in light of growing grade inflation. (The task force said it would endorse creation by UC of a new test for applicants to replace the SAT and ACT.)

However, critics, including the FairTest organization, have long contended the SAT better predicts parental income and education than undergraduate success.

Many parents invest thousands of dollars in test prep programs and tutors to help their children improve their scores. Several studies have found that high school grades better forecast student performance and college completion.

“Today’s vote by the University of California (U.C.) Regents to phase out ACT/SAT admissions testing requirements at all U.C. campuses is a huge victory for both equity and academic quality,” according to Bob Schaeffer, interim Executive Director of FairTest, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing.

“California is the largest single state market for undergraduate admissions exams,” said Schaeffer. “FairTest expects many colleges and universities now in the process of evaluating their own admissions testing mandates to heed the message from California and adopt ACT/SAT-optional policies.”

UC had already told applicants for the fall of 2021 that SAT and ACT scores were optional because of the disarray in testing schedules due to the pandemic.

University of California President Janet Napolitano’s argument that there was a socio-economic bias to the tests won over the Regents, who endorsed phasing in the changes over time.

The timeframe as approved involves:

That UC remain test optional for an additional year, that is through 2022.

The recommendation is that for two additional years, 2023 and 2024, UC be 'test blind'. For those two years, students would still have the option of submitting a test score, but that score could only be considered for purposes other than admission selection, such as course placement, certain scholarships, and eligibility for the statewide admissions guarantee.

By 2025, any use of the ACT/SAT would be eliminated for California students and a new, UC-based test would be required.

If, by 2025, the new test is either not feasible or not ready, consideration of the ACT/SAT would still be eliminated for California students.

Georgia seems committed to requiring SAT and ACT scores for admission to its public colleges, but the California decision will ripple.

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