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University Of California Eliminates The SAT And ACT While Hundreds Of Colleges Stay Test-Optional

University Of California Eliminates The SAT And ACT While Hundreds Of Colleges Stay Test-Optional  Forbes


Sather Gate at the University of California at Berkeley that leads to Sproul Plaza.


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The University of California will no longer use standardized test scores to evaluate undergraduate applicants. The most prestigious public university system in the nation with a total of 226,000 undergrads on nine campuses, UC signed a settlement last week in a 2019 lawsuit.



The plaintiffs, a coalition of students, advocacy groups and a mostly Black and Latino Los Angeles-area school district, argued that the tests illegally discriminated against applicants based on race, wealth and disability and denied them equal protection under California&#8217;s constitution. The tests spawned a test-prep industry that favored affluent families, they contended.

With the suit pending, in May 2020 the California system&#8217;s governing board voted to phase out the tests. It would adopt a test-optional policy for two years and then stop using the tests altogether. &#8220;These tests are extremely flawed and very unfair,&#8221; said Board of Regents member and lieutenant governor Eleni Kounalakis at the time. &#8220;Enough is enough.&#8221; The board said that UC would study the possibility of developing its own admission test.



Then in August, a state court judge issued a preliminary order in the suit. It barred UC from considering test scores during the pandemic, primarily because students with disabilities were not able to take tests with the necessary accommodations since so many exam centers had shut down and test dates canceled.


The judge also ruled in favor of the plaintiffs&#8217; request that test scores not be used to determine eligibility for scholarships.

UC appealed the ruling and lost. The settlement makes permanent the policy laid out in the initial ruling.


UC is both large and influential. It includes two of the nation&#8217;s most highly ranked public universities, University of California at Berkeley and UCLA. When the Regents announced the plan to get rid of standardized tests, it gave a huge boost to the anti-testing movement and posed a new threat to the giant nonprofits that administer the tests, especially the 121-year-old College Board, which owns the SAT.

Based in New York City, the Board has annual revenue of $1 billion and more than 1,500 employees. The pandemic has battered its prospects, forcing the cancellation of multiple test dates. Though the Board had promised early on to develop an online version of the SAT, it failed to do so. In February it laid off 14% of the staff.

For the upcoming application season, more than 1,425 four-year colleges or universities will be either test-blind or test-optional according to FairTest, a nonprofit that advocates the elimination of testing requirements for admissions and scholarships. That accounts for 61% of all such institutions. Prior to the pandemic, 1,070 schools had test-blind or test-optional policies.

&#8220;The settlement of the California civil rights lawsuit sends an important message to higher-ed leaders across the country,&#8221; says Bob Schaeffer, who heads FairTest. &#8220;If you don&#8217;t need tests at Berkeley, UCLA and San Diego, you don&#8217;t need them anywhere.&#8221;

In response to a request for comment, College Board sent out a statement that says, in part, &#8220;The College Board and the SAT were founded to increase access to college and that remains our core mission.&#8221; The statement did not address the UC settlement.

For more on the College Board, click here.