The End of SAT at UC

August 22, 2022

The end of the SAT and ACT at the University of California schools has been welcomed by some with applause. And why wouldn’t it be? The original rationale of the case brought against the use of these tests cited the fact that the tests were biased towards people who can afford tutoring and against students of color and those with disabilities. The tests have even been called “racist metrics” by people including a lawyer representing the suit against the UC standardized test use.

Even more substantively, more students with a wider variety of backgrounds than ever have applied to elite schools that suspended test score requirements during the pandemic.

The Catch 

The catch is that these schools have not changed the number of students they plan to accept. Schools that were already extremely selective, such as the UC schools, are not going to supply more spots to meet the demand indicated by more applications. Instead, admissions officers will likely be overworked trying to evaluate applications without test scores giving them a minimum objective threshold. In turn, this may require more admissions staff and increase tuition in the long term, further disincentivizing acceptance of economically disadvantaged students.

What Now?

The question must be asked: are the metrics that remain any less biased? Will students previously disenfranchised by the standardized tests finally get their chance to shine? A recent Stanford study reveals that class bias can be just as, if not more, encoded in the non-test student evaluations as in the SAT. The question of whether or not the UC admissions methods will overcome the college admissions class bias is as in question as ever, even (and maybe especially) after ridding itself of the SAT and ACT.

At this point, there is no way to know how this decision will shake out. The people who filed the suit were confident that removing standardized tests from the UC application process would help people. There are some reasonable reservations to be had with that idea. The reality of the situation will only become clear in the years to come, as the new UC process settles into its patterns.

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