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UC System Suspends Use of SAT/ACT Scores for Admission

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The University of California System reached a settlement agreement to no longer require SAT and ACT scores for admission after a coalition of students and advocacy groups filed a lawsuit against the University of California system last year in the case of Kawika Smith v. Regents of the University of California. 

The UC System planned to allow campuses to make exams optional for fall 2021 and 2022 freshman admissions. This policy was first announced on April 1, 2020, for incoming freshmen for fall 2021. The Board of Regents extended the policy in May 2020 to include admissions for fall 2022 and 2023 freshmen.

Students in the lawsuit argued that the consideration of voluntary test scores was still unfair for students with disabilities who were unable to receive testing accommodations due to the pandemic and school closures. The judge overseeing the case ruled in September 2020 that campuses could not consider test scores from students who chose to submit them. 

Ruling Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman went further to denounce the approval of voluntary scores.

“The current COVID 19 pandemic has resulted in restrictions in the availability of test sites. While test-taking opportunities for all students have been limited, for persons with disabilities, the ability to obtain accommodations or even to locate suitable test locations for the test are ‘almost nil,’” Seligman said.

Scholarship decisions will also no longer be influenced by test scores. The UC System will still consider scores for alternative purposes such as course placement.

“The Board of Regents had already decided in May 2020 that SAT or ACT scores would not be considered for fall 2023 admissions and beyond,” the UC System said. “And all the UC campuses have announced plans not to consider SAT or ACT scores for fall 2022 admissions.”

In response to the pandemic last year, many universities suspended the use of SAT and ACT scores for admission. This decision prompted activists to push for a permanent change of the policy, arguing that the exams favor privileged students.

The College Board’s Executive Director of Communications Zach Goldberg has pushed back on the policy. 

“Evidence shows that when colleges consider SAT scores in the context of where students live and go to school, as with our free admissions tool Landscape, the SAT helps increase diversity, ” Goldberg said in a statement to CNN. “As we emerge from the pandemic, the SAT will remain one of the most accessible and affordable ways for students to distinguish themselves. Preserving a student’s choice to submit scores is important.” 

The UC system will pay over $1.2 million in legal fees to the student plaintiff’s lawyers.

When the decision came down, Mark Rosenbaum, the lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said that the settlement “marks an end to a sordid chapter in the history of the University of California. The Regents’ stubborn insistence over generations upon usage of the SAT and ACT despite indisputable evidence that these exams only measured family wealth cost hundreds of thousands of talented students of color a fair opportunity to matriculate in their state’s system of higher education.” 

Autumn Martin is a City News Intern for the spring 2021 quarter. She can be reached at autumnjm@uci.edu.