UC system: SAT/ACT scores will not factor into admissions, scholarship decisions

Bringing closure to an ongoing lawsuit, the University of California (UC) system has agreed to no longer consider SAT or ACT scores when making admissions and scholarship decisions. The test-blind commitment applies to all students seeking to enroll between fall 2021 and spring 2025, accelerating the 10-campus system’s planned phase-out of the standardized tests.

The newly codified policy makes UC “the largest and best-known American institution of higher education to distance itself from the use of the two major standardized tests,” The New York Times writes.

UC has said it may explore alternative assessments and, in the new settlement, pledged that it “will consider access for students with disabilities in the design and implementation of any such exam.”

Ending a protracted legal process

UC’s announcement marked the end of a lawsuit filed in 2019 by a group of students, advocates, and representatives from the Compton Unified School District, who asserted that the standardized exams are biased against disabled, low-income, Black, and Latinx students—and that the UC system’s use of SAT/ACT scores put such applicants at a disadvantage. Previously, UC considered applicants’ SAT/ACT scores among more than 12 factors in making admissions decisions.

In May 2020, UC’s Board of Regents voted unanimously to phase out the use of SAT and ACT test scores when evaluating candidates for admission. The system planned to extend its test-optional policy through fall 2022 and then go “test-blind” for California students during the 2023 and 2024 admissions cycles, considering standardized test results only for out-of-state students and in awarding scholarships.

However, in a lawsuit last year, students said that even a test-optional approach would be unfair, especially given that the COVID-19 pandemic severely limited testing opportunities for students with disabilities.

Will other institutions follow suit?

In announcing the settlement and its terms, UC leaders said they hoped that the lawsuit’s conclusion would “provide certainty for students and their families, counselors, and high schools.”

Aurea Montes-Rodriguez, the executive vice president of Community Coalition, one of the groups bringing the lawsuit, called the settlement “exciting,” telling Inside Higher Ed that “for decades, Black and brown students who can’t afford pricey SAT and ACT test prep and tutors have been at a disadvantage when applying to University of California schools and scholarships.”

Related: Test-optional policies here to stay, ACT report suggests >

Higher ed experts, meanwhile, say the settlement could have implications well beyond California. It is likely to “reverberate through higher education and have a profound effect on admissions testing, which was already being scaled back during the health crisis,” writes Higher Ed Dive.

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