The University of California System Drops SAT/ACT Requirements
In 2019, the Ivy League bribery scandal sent shockwaves around the world. Reports discovered that admissions staff members in Georgetown, Yale University, Stanford University, the University of Texas, the University of Southern California, the University of California Los Angeles, and other institutions had been accepting bribes from wealthy parents. These parents also got their children to pass the SAT entrance test by hiring a ghost test-taker (someone who writes in substitution for the actual test taker).
The most high-profile cases were famous actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman. According to reports, Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli donated $500,000 to the University of Southern California to get their daughter into the school; Felicity Hoffman paid $15,000 which allowed her daughter to cheat on the SAT exam.
The 2019 college admissions scandal revealed that meritocracy is, to a small extent, a myth in higher education. In an attempt to rectify matters, the University of California system has announced that they will no longer require incoming freshmen to complete an ACT/SAT exam. This news came back in May of this year and was unanimously voted on by the council. The council decided that the SAT and ACT testing requirements for freshman applicants through 2024 are to be dropped and eliminated for California students after that.
Instead, the UC system – which includes about 280,000 students across the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of California, Berkeley, and seven other undergraduate schools – will focus on creating its own test “that better aligns with the content the University expects students to have mastered for college readiness” and its values, according to a news release.
The approved plan will make SAT and ACT scores optional for 2021-22 and 2022-23 applicants. By 2025, both testing requirements will be eliminated for California students, even if the new test created by the system is considered “unfeasible or not ready,” says the release.
For the 2023-24 and 2024-25, there will be a “test-blind” process, meaning universities won’t use testing scores for admissions, but they can use them for other purposes like scholarships and course placements.
This news comes after a long year of debate about whether or not standardized testing was discriminatory towards non-white and ethnic students. After all, the original SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) was invented in 1926 by Carl Brigham who was a eugenicist, and he made the test to prove the inherent racial superiority of white Americans. Interestingly, Brigham later disavowed his eugenics views and the SAT, stating that the test scores do not even reflect innate ability but rather external factors like the test taker’s schooling, English ability and family background. These tested factors rather than innate ability are why Christopher Jencks and Meredith Phillips from Brookings illustrate that “the typical American black still scores below 75 percent of American whites on almost every standardized test.”
However, many claim that the admission process of Ivy League schools is inherently discriminatory, regardless of standardized testing.
In 2014, a lawsuit was filed against Harvard University by Asian-Americans advocacy groups, and an off-shoot of Edward Blum’s Project on Fair Representation, Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) claiming that Asian-Americans “personal ratings” (a subjective evaluation of personal qualities) are, on average, significantly lower than for white applicants. They claimed this was a result of prejudice rather than a lack of merit.
The case went to federal judges who did seem to agree with the plaintiffs but did not accept there was adequate evidence. The case has since disappeared to the background.
Will the University of California System’s decision to drop the mandatory SAT/ACT examination and replace it with another test create an equitable and non-biased decision-making process in university admissions? Only time will tell if this decision is an honest one.