Posted on May 18, 2021

University of California Will No Longer Consider SAT and ACT Scores

Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, New York Times, May 15, 2021

The University of California will not take SAT and ACT scores into account in admissions or scholarship decisions for its system of 10 schools, which include some of the nation’s most sought-after campuses, in accordance with a settlement in a lawsuit brought by students.

The settlement announced on Friday signals the end of a lengthy legal debate over whether the University of California system should use the standardized tests, which students of color and those with disabilities have said put them at a disadvantage. Opponents of the tests called the settlement “historic,” and said that it would broaden access to campuses for students across the state.

“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.

Some 225,000 undergraduate students attend University of California schools, and the settlement this week makes the system the largest and best-known American institution of higher education to distance itself from the use of the two major standardized tests.

The settlement resolves a 2019 lawsuit brought by a coalition of students, advocacy groups and the Compton Unified School District, a largely Black and Hispanic district in Los Angeles County. 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.


The newly announced settlement says that no University of California schools can consider SAT or ACT scores in determining admission offers for students applying for entry between fall 2021 and spring 2025. If scores are submitted by students, they will not be viewed by those looking over admissions applications, the settlement said.

Last year, the university system voted to phase out the SAT and ACT requirements for admission, amid the ongoing criticism. Like many colleges nationwide, University of California schools had already made the SAT and ACT optional for last year’s applicants who will begin school this fall, after testing dates were disrupted by the pandemic.

Then the California system’s governing board voted unanimously to extend that optional period 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. The board planned to phase out consideration of the SAT or ACT for any student’s admission, in or out of state, in 2025.

But last year, students sued the university, with lawyers arguing in court that even voluntary submission of scores would be harmful, particularly for students with disabilities who were largely unable to take the tests with necessary accommodations during the coronavirus pandemic — and therefore were denied the opportunity to submit scores.

An Alameda County Superior Court judge granted a preliminary injunction, ruling that the university system was not permitted to factor in SAT and ACT scores in admissions decisions, even if the tests were optional.


The University of California system received the largest number of undergraduate applications in its history for fall of 2021 — a 16.1 percent increase from the past year — the university said, including an increase in African-American and Latino applicants. {snip}