The University of California System should phase out SAT and ACT scores as an admissions requirement, its president, Janet Napolitano, is recommending.
Napolitano has proposed a five-year plan in which UC would make the tests optional for two years and then eliminate them entirely for two subsequent years. In the fifth year, it would identify or create a new admissions exam.
Pundits predict a move by UC to go test-optional would drastically affect the standardized testing landscape and prompt other institutions to adopt similar policies.
The UC System had already temporarily discontinued the tests for fall 2021 applicants because of the pandemic, joining dozens of colleges that stopped using admissions exams for that reason. However, UC was mulling a test-optional model far before the coronavirus took hold in the U.S.
Its Academic Senate was studying whether the SAT and ACT were adequate measures of academic prowess when the system was sued in December by advocacy groups, a local school district, and students who allege the tests are discriminatory.
Opponents of admissions exams have long argued the test outcomes are tied to race and income, and that the exams benefit wealthy students who can afford extensive tutoring and other test preparation. A state court is scheduled to hold a hearing on the twin lawsuits on Wednesday.
UC faculty have favored keeping admissions tests. In early February, a committee appointed by the Academic Senate stopped short of suggesting the system get rid of its testing policies, noting that they seemed to be a sound predictor of students' initial academic performance. Last month, leadership of the Academic Senate voted 51-0, with one abstention, to maintain the SAT and ACT for at least five years.
Nevertheless, Napolitano urged the board of regents to suspend use of the tests. Applicants for the fall 2021 and fall 2022 terms could submit their scores to UC campuses, but the universities wouldn't consider them at all for fall 2023 and fall 2024 applicants.
The class entering in fall 2025 would be required to take a new test that the system would create or identify and adjust so that it "aligns with the content UC expects students should have mastered to demonstrate college readiness." If officials didn't come up with such an assessment, they would eliminate testing requirements entirely.
Napolitano noted that UC would evaluate a test used in K-12 public schools in several states, including California, called Smarter Balanced. But developing a new test "may better serve" California public school students seeking admission to UC or the California State University, she wrote, adding that Timothy White, chancellor of that system, "indicated a willingness" to help create such a test.
Experts have said any decision by UC would likely reverberate around the country, as California is the largest state market for admissions exams, and compound the trend of colleges abolishing or reducing emphasis on them.
The board of regents is due to vote on the proposal next week.