Photo: Larry Gordon/EdSource
San Francisco State campus before coronavirus shut it down.

Applicants to the 23-campus California State University won’t have to submit scores from the SAT or ACT for admission in fall 2021, nor for the following winter and spring terms, according to an announcement released Friday.

Coming after a similar action by the University of California on April 1, the move means that both of California’s enormous public university systems have suspended standardized testing in the admissions process because of hardships caused by the pandemic.

Like the UC action, the CSU move was portrayed as a temporary emergency measure, not implying a permanent end to standardized test requirements, officials said. “This temporary change will ensure equitable access to the university, and should provide some measure of relief to prospective students and their families,” CSU chancellor Timothy P. White said in a statement.

However, the use of standardized testing in college admissions remains highly controversial and testing opponents hope this one-year change will be a trial run for a permanent end at both UC and CSU. Testing critics contend the standardized tests are biased against low-income and some minority students but supporters say the exams are good tools to predict college success for those students.

The use of standardized test scores is less widespread and somewhat more complicated in CSU than in UC.

At the less-crowded CSU campuses, freshman applicants in the past were eligible for admission without test scores if they had a 3.0 grade point average in the 15 high school courses required for entrance, usually referred to as A-G classes. Those with a GPA below 3.0 had to submit scores. However, since many CSU campuses and majors are overcrowded, SAT or ACT results were required of all applicants at those so-called impacted campuses and majors. The scores are also used for placement in freshman English and math classes.

Transfer students to CSU have not been required to submit standardized test scores.

The UC and CSU decisions come after testing sessions were canceled this spring due to the health emergency. The SAT and ACT are planning to schedule tests this summer and fall if schools reopen and are planning on-line, at-home exams if the emergency continues. But that posed too many problems about students’ equal access to the tests and preparation this year, university officials said.

CSU said it has not finished compiling the numbers of its applications for this upcoming fall admission. For 2019. nearly 195,000 students applied for freshmen entrance and about 66,000 enrolled.

In Friday’s announcement, CSU outlined general admissions guidelines for fall 2021 and the two following terms through spring 2022:

  • California residents and graduates of California high schools will be eligible for admission by earning a 2.50 or greater average in “A-G” high school courses.
  • California high school graduates with a grade average in those classes between 2.00 and 2.49 may be evaluated with extra factors, such as number of courses exceeding minimum requirements, household income and extracurricular involvement.
  • Residents of other states and nations may be eligible for admission with a 3.0 grade average in those courses.

A faculty report released in February said UC should continue to require that applicants for undergraduate admission take standardized college admissions tests like the SAT and ACT. That report says that standardized exams remain good predictors of students’ success at UC at a time when grade inflation in high schools makes it harder to choose potential university freshmen. In fact, the report insists that test results actually help identify many talented Latino, black and low-income students who otherwise might be rejected because their high school grades alone were not high enough. The UC regents are expected to vote on the issue in May.

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